Even if you don’t follow the IIHF World Juniors, or hockey for that matter, and whether or not you’re an avid sports fan, it would’ve been pretty hard to miss our under 20 men’s team take home Canada’s 15th and fifth consecutive world title Monday night. Each year, the holiday season serves as a time to follow an initiation of future NHL stars, and revive old rivalries in a tournament for the ages.
Coast to coast, Canadians have been patriotically wearing their maple leaves, and proudly waving their flags in support of our country’s greatest and most respected pastime. Sure enough, our junior boys gave the rest of the world a pleasant reminder of why we’re the #1 hockey nation, and a force that stands to be reckoned with.
Canada entered the tournament with three easy wins; over Czech Republic 8-1, dominating Kazakhstan 15-0, and finally defeating Germany 5-1 leading them to face long-standing rivals, the USA. The puck dropped on New Years Eve, and the US quickly maintained a three goal lead. But, as skill would have it, the Canadians came back to win it 7-3. This sent Team Canada to the semi-finals against an even larger archenemy—the Russians, in a rivalry that dates back to the ’72 Summit Series.
With their raw skill and speed, many feared this would be the end. But yet again Canada pulled through, just barely, in arguably one of the best games in IIHF history. Flirting with disaster, it wasn’t until 5.4 seconds remaining in the game that Jordan Eberle scored the tying goal. After 10 minutes of overtime play, the game went to a shootout. Goal-scoring phenomenon and overall MVP of the tournament, John Tavares, and the hero himself Eberle, scored on the Russians. Canadian net minder Dustin Tokarski maintained his posts and ensured a 6-5 Canadian victory.
The drive to five remained alive and well; with an under rated veteran coach like Pat Quinn (the oldest in IIHF history), personalities the likes of PK Subban, and pure determination and hunger seen in Angelo Esposito for instance, having finally made the team in his fourth year trying out. Then you have Tyler Myers and Keith Aulie maintaining a strong defence each towering over 6’6, as well as a slew of top-notch power forwards like Zach Boychuk and Cody Hodgson.
Canadians should be particularly pleased in the team’s success against the Swedes, who had quite the theatrical performance in the gold medal game. Diving goaltenders, choke holds, and finger biting made for an entertaining game. This would be the second year Canada beat out Sweden in the final; loosing last year 3-2 in overtime, and this year 5-1.
Overcoming the adversity, especially on home soil here in the Nation’s capital, and in front of a sold out, record-breaking crowd, made it all the more sweet of a success. An arena transformed into a sea of red and white, fans old and young cheering, chanting, and breathing hockey spirit, and a team–rather a brotherhood, sharing blood, sweat, and tears for the glory of all Canadians. Really, who wouldn’t want to be a Canuck on a night like this eh?