The World Junior tournaments are officially over and of course Canada wins Gold.
The Canadians took Russia’s three-goal counterpunch in the second period, but managed to gold firm in the final frame, snapping a haunting five-year gold medal drought with a 5-4 victory on Monday night.
And because of it, gold — the world junior hockey version — is back on Canadian soil. An elated bunch of teenagers could not contain their joy.
“We’re world junior champions. We’re world champions,” said Connor McDavid. “It’s joy. We were never really under pressure. The media and all the fans might’ve been putting that pressure on us, but we were just able to brush it off. Right now this is just absolute joy.”
A star-studded Canadian team came in waves — McDavid, Anthony Duclair, Max Domi, Sam Reinhart — to overwhelm their Russian rivals early, then held on late in a frenetic, nervewracking 5-4 final for the world junior hockey championship.
Anthony Duclair opened the scoring with a downright elastic release just 23 seconds in the game off a beautiful feed from top forward, Max Domi. Just a little two minutes later, Nick Paul wouold chase Russian goaltender Igor Shestyorkin after accepting a sweeping backhand pass from Brayden Point on the rush.
Max Domi led the Canadians with a goal and two assists, aping off a wonderful tournament for the dynamic forward. He was named to the tournament all-star-team, named the overall best forward and received showers of “Domi, Domi” from the crowd for his efforts in Toronto.
“Unbelievable,” said Reinhart, who led the tournament in scoring. “I’m glad I was on the ice and not in the stands in the second period for a while there. The character in the room prevailed and we stuck with it in the third.”
The Russians rolled back with three straight goals after trailing 5-1 in the second. Canada bent but did not break, holding on in a scoreless third period for Canada’s first gold medal in six years.
“To end the streak of Canada not being on top, we can finally call this game ours,” said captain Curtis Lazar. “What a way to do it.”
The team mobbed goalie Zach Fucale when the buzzer sounded and the crowd went wild to fireworks, as helmets and gloves went flying.
“Everything from breakfast to now — it all stands out,” said McDavid. “It’s unbelievable. We were able to brush off (the Russian rally). It was pure joy.
“Crazy,” added McDavid. “The crowd out there was unbelievable. They were with us every step of the way. Such a loud building. Just standing on the blue line and singing the national anthem with 22 of my good buddies. The crowd. It’s hard to explain.”
It’s Canada’s first junior medal of any colour in three years, and first gold in six. The last Canadian team to win featured John Tavares, in Ottawa in 2009.
A team built around size, speed and skill from the Canadian junior ranks, fortified by a pair of players on loan from the NHL, skated into Canada’s hearts with a dominating performance that started with an 8-0 win on Boxing Day against Slovakia and never relented.
“I knew from the get-go with this group we had that we weren’t going to be stopped,” said Lazar. “Regardless of the adversity we were going to have to face, we were going to find a way.”
Canada went 7-0 and never trailed in the tournament.
Congrats boys! You have made the country proud.