Canada’s bronze heartbreak

By Justin Seward

Tears were shed across Canada after the semi-final game in the World Junior Hockey Tournament when Russia snuffed Canada’s shot at a gold medal. Despite Canada’s heartbreaking loss, the tournament kept hockey fans on their feet with excitement.

Sweden ended a 31-year streak without a tournament win, defeating Russia 1-0 in the gold medal game. Sweden’s Mika Zibanejad made history with a goal 10:09 minutes into overtime under the blocker of Russia’s Andrei Markarov in a thrilling battle of talent.

Team Canada played on home soil in Calgary and Edmonton, dominating their round robin pool 4-0 and earning a spot in the semi-final after defeating Finland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and the United States, who finished a dismal seventh place.

Many players on the Canadian team who were a strong presence on the ice were NHL draft picks, like Mark Stone, who was Canada’s top scorer with seven goals and three assists in the tournament. He suffered a hand injury late in the tournament which affected his scoring. Brett Connolly, in his second-consecutive year in the tournament, had five goals and one assist, leading Canada physically. Brendan Gallagher was another strong force with three goals and three assists.

The team was a young squad and experienced adversity with injuries and no returning defencemen.

Canada was paired with the skilled Russians in the semi-finals in their hardest test of the tournament — last year, the Canadians collapsed in the third period of the gold medal game against Russia.

Russian captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov was on the Canadians’ radar this year because of his hot streak with nine points in a single game against Latvia in the round robin.

Canada was far behind early on, dashing their hopes of a gold medal because of an attack led by Kuznetsov, who scored a hat-trick in the game. The Russians piled on goals and were up 5-1 after 40 minutes — the gold medal on home ice looked in jeopardy and the crowd went silent as the Russians notched another goal. The resilient Canadians came back in the third period as they began one of the greatest comebacks in the tournament’s history with four-straight goals for a 6-5 game.

The Canadians almost sent the game to overtime after Ryan Strome hit the post with minutes remaining, but ended in heartbreak for hockey fans across the country.

After 10 straight appearances in the gold medal final, the Canadians played with pride and beat Finland 4-0, taking home the bronze medal for the first time since 2001.

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