In the end, it didn’t matter that there were no superstar players on the Team Canada World Junior team. Canada was in the final, playing the Americans for gold and national glory.Round RobinGold was the only result that could be considered a success for the Canadians with the tournament being at home in Toronto and Montreal. Team Canada lacked a definitive superstar, promising to win with a team that would score by committee. On December 26, they opened the tournament against the Russians and beat them 5-3, with team captain Dylan Strome scoring two goals.The next day Canada played the Slovaks, beating them decisively 5-0, with Slovakia only managing six shots on Canadian goalie Connor Ingram.On the 29th, Canada played Latvia and made quick work of them. Canada failed to score in the first 10 minutes — and this writer may have been getting anxious — but then scored 10 goals in the final 50 minutes, beating them 10-2, with Taylor Raddysh scoring four goals, tying a Canadian single game record.The final game of the Round Robin was the New Year’s Eve classic against the Americans. The U.S came out quick, scoring two goals in the first seven minutes of the game. In the second period, Canada brought it to within one goal after defenceman Thomas Chabot, an Ottawa Senators prospect, scored on the power-play. Five minutes later, however, Kitchener Rangers star and Maple Leafs prospect who plays for Team USA, Jeremy Bracco, scored to give the Americans a 3-1 lead.Knock-Out RoundIn the Quarter Finals, Canada played the Czech Republic in what was, at times, a feisty game. Both teams playing hard, the Czechs did all they could to get Team Canada off of its game. In the end, Canada won 5-3, with Julien Gauthier scoring two goals. The semi-finals were going to be a tough test for the Canadians, as they faced what was considered to be the best team in the tournament: Sweden. In the days leading up to the game, Canadian coach Dominique Ducharme turned heads by offering some analysis of the Swedish program in recent tournaments saying, “they showed in the last 10 years that they’re really good in the first round, but they have ways to lose when things get tougher.”The Swedes have dominated the Round Robin in recent years, but only have one gold medal to show for it. This game was easily Canada’s coming out party. They played hard, they played fast, and they absolutely took the game to the Swedes in ways which they hadn’t to other teams in previous games. This was Canadian hockey.The teams traded goal for goal in the first period, with Connor Ingram being pulled from the net after allowing two goals on three shots. A tough break, but in a do-or-die game Canada needed a goalie in net who would stop the puck. Carter Hart came in and did just that, stopping all 28 shots he faced. Canada would add three more goals throughout the remainder of the game to win 5-2, and set up a date with the Americans for gold.Gold Medal GameThe Canada vs. United States match up has a history of producing incredible hockey at this tournament: the Jonathan Toews semi-final shootout thriller in 2007, for example, or the gold medal game in Saskatoon in 2010 where the teams played into overtime and the Americans ultimately won. The 2017 gold medal game will have certainly earned its place in Canada – USA World Junior Hockey lore. Canada came out firing, skating with such speed and hitting with such ferocity — you’d hardly believe that some of these combatants played on the same club team. Canada went up 2-0 in the first period, with goals from Thomas Chabot and Jeremy Lauzon. In the second period, the Americans scored twice; a defensive lapse coupled with a poor change saw Charlie McAvoy score, and then Kieffer Bellows tied the game heading into the final frame. Canada went up two goals again quickly in the third courtesy of a laser-quick snap shot from Nicolas Roy, and a breakaway goal from Matthieu Joseph. America responded promptly, with Kieffer Bellows getting his second of the game, and Colin White tying it at four. The game needed overtime: 20 minutes of breath-taking hockey with chances at both ends. Canada failed to score on a power-play that had previously been the lifeblood of their team. In the end, the game needed a shoot out.With five shooters each, Canada failed to score on each of their chances. The Americans scored one. Team USA beat Team Canada 5-4(SO) and won the gold medal.Final ThoughtsThe World Juniors are a holiday tradition for the Canadian hockey fan; this tournament produces sporting memories that will last a lifetime. Jordan Eberle scoring to tie the Russians with 5.4 seconds left in the semi-finals in the 2009 tournament in Ottawa, the aforementioned Toews shoot-out thriller, and Matt Halischuk scoring the golden goal against the Swedes in OT of the 2008 tournament all qualify.In a tournament played by teenagers with such emotion, the country unites behind them. They may not have won gold this year, and indeed they have only won gold once since winning five straight between ’05 and ’09 (2015 in Toronto). In 2018, Canada will go down to Buffalo once again expected, and expecting themselves to win gold, because hockey is what we do.
Published: 10:55 pm, 8 January 2017