|The Russian team celebrates their U20 world title. |
Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
You could see it in the emptiness of their eyes. You could hear it in the silence of their fans. And you could feel it in the celebrations of their foes. Team Canada had just suffered what’s being called the worst upset in World Junior Championship’s history.
I suspect they thought they had the game locked in, and they simply needed to coast through the next 20 minutes. I suspect everyone else thought that, too - the fans at HSBC arena, the people watching on NHL Network, those listening on the radio - everyone thought the Canadians had the gold...everyone except Team Russia, that is.
This was the 7th meeting between Russia and Canada since the format of the WJCs changed in 1996. In the first three, Russia won; the second three went to Canada. Both teams came out strong in hopes of getting the tie-breaker.
Canada started off the scoring chances early, but Russia returned the favor with pressure of their own. Going back into the Russian zone, Georgi Berdyukov hooked Canada’s Ryan Johansen, sending Canada on the power play. They set up quickly, and Brayden Schenn sent the puck across the circles to a waiting Ryan Ellis who beat Dimitri Shikin for the first goal of the night. With that assist, Schenn became tied for second in total points scored for a Canadian during the WJCs. The other two with whom he shared that honor were Eric Lindros and Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.
As soon as Canada got that first goal of the game, they began to control the pace, yet Russia was able to interrupt scoring chances by getting their sticks in the passing lanes. On a take away, Dimitri Orlov of Russia maneuvered his way through traffic at the blue line to get a shot on net, but Mark Visentin made the difficult save.
The teams kept trading quality chances, but both goaltenders were playing well. Russia had an impressive breakaway with a solid shot on net looming, but Tyson Barrie made a diving poke check at the last second to stop the shot. Russia stayed inside Canada’s zone for a good 30 seconds after that; Visentin made save after save, swallowing up the puck with each one and not allowing any rebounds. With the clock winding down, the Canadians rushed the offensive zone and forced a turnover behind the net as both defenders were targeting the same guy, leaving Carter Ashton free to get Canada’s second goal of the night with 13.5 seconds left in the period. 2-0 Canada.
The second started the same way the first ended: flurries of chances at both ends. Ryan Ellis went down hard into the boards on an awkward play where he seemed to lose his edge. Shaken up, he slowly skated to the bench. He would return to the game later, however. Russia took another penalty, this time interference, and were very aggressive on the penalty kill. They managed to get two dangerous short-handed chances and to keep the puck in the offensive zone for extended periods, killing the penalty readily.
Team Canada didn’t let that sway their momentum, though, as they came right back and scored their third goal. Russia was pushed off the puck, allowing Marcus Foligno to slide it over to Schenn who registered his 18th point of the tournament. With that goal, Schenn moved ahead of Gretzky and Lindros to match the points record set by Dale McCourt in 1977. (Don’t forget, he tied the record for most goals in one game, too. It’s no wonder he received the MVP award for the tournament.)
With the score 3-0 on fewer than 20 shots, Russia swapped goaltenders, replacing Shikin with Igor Bobkov. Canada began to control the puck and push the play; they were getting a ton of shots on net and even thought a rebound found its way in. However, it skirted by just out of reach. Russia took yet another penalty when Ellis got a high stick to the helmet, and Artyom Voronin sat for two in the box. The Canadians started out the power play strong with a 30-second stretch in the offensive zone. Yet again, Russia had a solid penalty kill with a lot of puck control and a short-handed chance for which Visentin came up big.
Then Canada took their first penalty of the night as Erik Gudbranson got a little too aggressive on his check and was called for boarding. This time it was Canada’s turn to rule the PK as they didn’t let Russia get anything set up. They had one quality chance on a wrap-around, but Visentin shut the door on that.
As that power play ended, Russian Denis Golubev got two for slashing. During the first 30, Canada set up shop and peppered Bobkov, but another short-handed opportunity sent play back the other way. On the rush, Team Russia’s Vladimir Tarasenko slid into the boards in a scary moment where he didn’t move for a while, but he skated to the bench on his own and would come back into the game in a big way.
After killing that penalty, both teams’ tempers were rising, and fisticuffs and bad-mouthing ensued. No penalties were called, but battles along the boards increased in verocity. Rushes both directions were creating a lot of back and forth play, but a line change miscue caused Canada to take a too many men penalty with one minute left in the period. They stood tall, with Visentin making some key saves, and went into the intermission still up 3-0.
Third period and things began to change. After a killed power play, Russia worked their way into the zone. Canada seemed to be sitting back, satisfied to play a defensive game for the final 20. Russia got a shot on net that bounced off the back boards right into the slot and onto Artemi Panarin’s stick. Russia finally beat Visentin to get on the board. Score: 3-1 Canada.
Immediately from the face off, Russia’s Yevgeni Kuznetsov carried the puck along the boards and behind the net. He got a bad angle shot on net that Visentin initially stopped, but he was unable to control the rebound, and Maxim Kitsyn pulled Russia within one.
On the next shift, both Johansen and Schenn get hit and shaken up behind the play on what should have been penalties. With the non-call behind them, Russia took control of the puck and the pace of the game, generating offensive chances and forcing turnovers. On one such occasion, Nikita Naitsev worked the puck down low and sent it across the crease to Terasenko who one-timed it past Visentin to tie the game with only 3-1/2 minutes left.
Understandably, the Canadian coach called a time out to try to stop the meltdown that was happening in front of him. Russia had just scored three goals in less than 5 minutes. At fist, it seemed to work as pressure on the Russians forced a bad clearing attempt behind the net that took a weird bounce right on target. Bobkov was sharp, though, and made the save. Canada continued the pressure and got into the offensive zone with more control and put more pucks on net. They planted themselves in front of Bobkov and hammered him with shots and rebound attempts.
The Russians were still getting opportunities, though, and Visentin had to come up huge again for a save. Unfortunately, Gudbranson turned the puck over in a clearing attempt. The Russian player fanned on the shot, and in the battle for it, it slid behind the net. Another fanned shot and subsequent battle sent it along the boards behind the net the other way. Tarasenko got a hold of it and centered it; Panarin got a tip on it and put Russia up 4-3 on his second goal of the night.
Right off the face off, Canada attacked, and Barrie got a shot down low. No one knew where the puck was for a moment, not even the Russian goalie, but it was under his pads - no goal. Once Russia got control again, it was all over. They interrupted every pass the Canadians tried to make after that. They got in the lanes. They forced turnovers. With a two-on-one and an open net, they shot wide, and then took an untimely penalty. But like all night, Team Russia controlled the kill and got a final goal - beating Barrie out right and sending it five-hole - to seal the deal with 1:16 left. Russia scored 5 unanswered goals in the third period to win the gold. Final score: 5-3 Russia.
Players of the Game:
Canada - Cody Eakin (4 shots)
Russia - Igor Babkov (20 saves)
Stars of the Tournament:
Canada - Jared Cowen, Ryan Ellis and Brayden Schenn
Russia - Dimitri Shikin, Vladimir Tarasenko and Kuznetsov
Russia - Gold
Canada - Silver
USA - Bronze