Canada wins fifth consecutive gold
OTTAWA – Canada’s junior hockey team is back on top of the world, and this gold medal might be the sweetest one yet.
Record-setting crowds packed arenas in the nation’s capital to watch the Canadian team roll through the world junior championship with an unbeaten record, collecting a fifth-straight gold medal with a 5-1 victory over Sweden on Monday night.
It was the second straight tournament victory for four players on the Canadian team, but it left them with a feeling unlike any other.
The victory tied the country’s record of five consecutive titles in this tournament set between 1993 and 1997. Canada’s 15th gold at the world juniors also tied Russia/Soviet Union for the all-time lead.
The Canadian players jumped all over the ice in celebration after the horn sounded on their latest victory.
“It feels unbelieveable,” said defenceman P.K. Subban. “The first thing I want to do is thank God. I mean we’ve been blessed since Day 1.
“We started our trek in Petawawa. We were a bunch of individuals, we came to Ottawa as one team with one mission.”
Canada goes for a record six in a row at the 2010 world junior tournament in Saskatoon and Regina.
Cody Hodgson of the Brampton Battalion scored twice while Subban of the Belleville Bulls, Montreal Junior forward Angelo Esposito and Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats added singles for the hosts.
Tavares had two assists and finished tied with Hodgson for the tournament lead with 16 points. The 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont., was named the tournament’s most valuable player and top forward. He remains a strong candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2009 NHL draft.
Dustin Tokarski of the Spokane Chiefs made 39 saves for the victory.
“I can’t say enough about all the guys, all 22 guys, the coaching staff,” said Tavares. “There’s nothing better than this.”
Joakim Andersson scored for the Swedes and goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 26 shots.
The 20,380 at Scotiabank Place set a new single-game attendance record at the world junior tournament. It was the fourth time a new mark was established in Ottawa and erased the previous high of 20,223 that was set during Canada’s preliminary-round game against the U.S.
The audience included Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.
“Throughout the tournament, Canadian players not only produced world-class hockey on the ice, they also represented our country with tremendous dignity and pride off the ice,” Harper said in a statement. “I want to commend all of the players, coaches, volunteers, families and staff who contributed to this successful tournament.
“This is a well-deserved victory.”
Canada led 2-0 after two periods, but history has shown that to be an uncomfortable margin. The Canadians had the same lead going into the third period of last year’s final in Pardubice, Czech Republic, but the Swedes scored twice to force overtime.
The hosts started the third with a man advantage because of Mikael Backlund’s interference penalty to end the second.
Canada’s power-play was running hot at 51 per cent heading into the final and Hodgson scored his team’s second of the game 33 seconds into the final period. The Vancouver Canucks prospect wired a shot that beat Markstrom low stick side.
The Swedes cut into their deficit with Andersson wheeling the puck out front and getting a deflection over Tokarski’s shoulder at 8:30.
Eberle and Hodgson added empty-net goals to secure the victory.
Markstrom had an eventful evening as he was involved in two helmet-removing collisions – one of his own making – and was tripped outside his crease in the first 40 minutes.
In what was already a testy game with punches and face washes after the whistle, a second-period incident turned the heat up even more.
After Canada’s Patrice Cormier knocked Carl Gustaffson into the boards and shoved him again, Markstrom came out of his crease and checked Stefan Della Rovere during the same play. Markstrom was penalized for roughing and Della Rovere and Cormier for interference.
Angelo Esposito and Markstrom collided in a footrace for the puck in Sweden’s zone early in the second period with Markstrom getting the worst of it.
Defenceman Victor Hedman took exception to that, grabbing Esposito’s head and punching the Montreal Junior forward, which made Heman public enemy No. 1 at Scotiabank Place. The rival of Tavares for first overall pick in the draft was soundly booed any time he touched the puck after that.
Esposito responded to getting punched in the head by scoring his country’s second goal of the game. The Atlanta Thrashers prospect stepped out from behind the goal-line and backhanded the puck upper far corner at 4:06.
Tokarski preserved Canada’s slim 1-0 lead 90 seconds into the second period by stopping a streaking Magnus Svensson Paajarvi.
The Canadians dominated the opening six minutes, outshooting Sweden 10-5, and taking a 1-0 in the first minute on Subban’s power-play goal.
Sweden took control of the game in the final minutes of the period and trailed Canada 13-12 in shots heading into the second.
Backlund, a first-round draft pick of the Calgary Flames, shoved his glove in Tavares’s face after a whistle just 22 seconds into the game, and his roughing penalty put Canada a man up.
Subban and Hodgson dug away at the puck during a goal-mouth scramble and Subban shoveled it past Markstrom’s stick for his team’s 20th power-play goal of the tournament.
In an entertaining first-period moment, Tavares and Backlund took a turn stealing the puck from each other.
Germany and Kazakhstan were relegated to the world ‘B’ championship for finishing ninth and 10th. Switzerland and Austria will join Canada, Sweden, Russia, Slovakia, the U.S., Czech Republic, Finland and Latvia in Saskatchewan.
According to organizers, 453,282 tickets were sold, which is a tournament attendance record that wiped out the previous high of 325,138 set in Vancouver three years ago.
“Just look at the support we got, playing in Canada,” said Tavares. “They want nothing but the best but they (put) the support behind us.”
Because of the sheer size of Scotiabank Place it wasn’t a difficult ticket to get and there were still some available for Canada’s semifinal and the final late last week. Scalpers were asking $350 for upper-level seats prior to the final.
The attendance record was easily attainable of Scotiabank’s capacity and the Civic Centre, the site of Pool B games, also holds 10,000. Most European arenas hold 16,000 to 18,000.
Canada wins fifth consecutive gold