World Junior Hockey Championships 2020 – Day 8 Medal Games
BarnBurner Sports Writer
Sunday, January 5, 2020
Canada Reclaims Top of Junior Hockey World
OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC – Canada is golden once again.
For the 18th time, Canada hoisted the World Junior Championship Cup and dawned gold medals as they watched their flag rise to the top of Ostrava Arena with an intense 4-3 win over Russia Sunday afternoon.
Fourth liner Akil Thomas was the unlikely hero for Canada late in the 3rd period when he knocked down a pass from Connor McMichael at the Russian blue line and bounced the puck through the legs of Russian defender Danil Misyul and chased it down towards the net. Thomas dragged the puck onto his back had as he lost his balance and avoided the poke check of goaltender Amir Miftakhov to shovel the puck into the top left-hand corner of the net.
A crazy series of events led to Canada shutting it down for the final four minutes and 58 seconds but, we’ll get to that.
Canada started the game very much on a high after learning that their captain Barrett Hayton would play after sustaining a Grade 1 separated shoulder in Saturday’s semi-final against Finland. Hayton went through hours of manipulation therapy and his clearance had to be approved by both the Arizona Coyotes and his family.
But the passionate young centre would not be denied.
The emotional high for team Canada came to a bit of a halt after taking four penalties in the first period to Russia’s one, and three penalties in the span of five minutes.
All were successfully killed off.
The second period saw the beginning of controversy when Hayton, who was starting to get into the game more physically, was called for holding the stick of Ilya Kruglov. Hayton was carrying the puck into the offensive zone when Kruglov put his stick across Hayton’s midsection and he grabbed on.
Russia scored on the ensuing powerplay Nikita Alexandrov got his stick on a Yegor Zamula shot for a brilliant tip past Joel Hofer to finally get a goal on the board midway through the period.
Both Miftakov and Hofer had been spectacular throughout the beginning of the game, so it had to be a redirected shot that opened the scoring.
However, a minute later, the officials had a delayed penalty for holding on Dimitri Voronkov when Danil Zhuravlyov slashed a Canadian as he tried to play the puck in the Russian corner. Canada received a two-minute 5-on-3 powerplay.
On the advantage, Dylan Cozens slapped in a rebound in front of Miftakov off a shot from Alexis Lafreniere to tie the game.
Three minutes later, Grigori Denisenko jammed the puck in from underneath the left pad of Hofer to retake the lead for Russia.
The first five-on-five goal began to put Canada on edge as Russia started to take over and out-chanced Canada 11-5 in the 2nd period.
At the end of the period, Zamula took an undisciplined penalty when he gave Hayton a shot in the face after the horn. Canada began the 3rd period with a powerplay.
Just seconds after Russia killed it off, Nikita Rtishev forced a turnover deep in the Canadian zone and sent the puck behind the net to Kruglov. He found Maxim Sorkin in front who wired it past Hofer and Russia took a 3-1 lead.
Moments of nerves were short-lived for Canada as they set up in the offensive zone and Calen Addison blasted a shot from the top of the circle that ricocheted off the right shin of Connor McMichael and past Miftakhov to bring Canada back to within one.
Dmitri Voronkov went off for cross-checking as Russia got into penalty trouble. Just 10 seconds into the man advantage, Barrett Hayton, who wasn’t able to lift the puck in warmup, wired a shot over the right shoulder of Miftakhov and ignited all of Canada to tie the game at three.
Five minutes later, Thomas scored his breakaway goal that made the whole country jump up at once.
Canada sat right back down when Kevin Bahl went off for hooking a minute later and the Canadians had to kill a 6-on-4 with 3:41 left to play.
During the kill, Aidan Dudas backhanded the puck out of the zone, straight off the centre-ice camera. The back linesman initially indicated two minutes for a delay of game penalty but, the referees overruled that, apparently citing a rule that if the puck strikes any structural entity on its way out of play, a penalty shall not be assessed.
Canada caught a major break and didn’t have to kill a 6-on-3 disadvantage.
Pavel Dorofeyev lifted the stick of Joe Veleno out of his hand and went off for interference, washing out the penalty to Canada and Miftakhov had to return to the net. Russia controlled the puck and pulled Miftakhov again but, couldn’t get a shot on Hofer. Denisenkov tried to get a one-timer off but, his stick shattered, and he tried to play the puck with his broken stick.
Denisenko was penalized with less than a minute left in the game and Canada just let the time run out.
Canada wins their first gold medal since 2018 and their third gold since 2015. Russia wins their 13th combined silver and remains without a gold since 2011.
Sweden Outlasts Finland for Bronze
Another unlikely hero for Sweden, Linus Oberg, who had just one goal coming into this game scored the game winner in the most unlikely way.
Sweden broke into the zone, tied 2-2 late in the 2nd, and the puck trickled into the near corner. Oberg grabbed the puck, spun, and threw it out in front. It banked off the skate of Finnish goaltender Justus Annunen and into the net.
Finland took four penalties in the 3rd which allowed Sweden to maintain control of the game and run out the clock to win Bronze.
Finland jumped out to an early lead when Patrik Puistola snuck a shot past Hugo Alnefelt for a 1-0 lead.
Sweden went on the powerplay midway through the period which allowed Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin to snipe on Annunen to tie the game.
Finland retook the lead late in the frame off a bad giveaway by Nils Hoglander at his own blueline. Matias Maccelli picked off the pass and was able to drive the net uncontested and score for Finland to retake the lead.
Sweden started to claw back in the 2nd and gained momentum after another penalty kill. Hoglander received a stretch pass from Adam Ginning and rushed in on a 2-on-1. Ginning was forced to shoot but, Samual Fagemo picked up the rebound to tie the game.
Oberg’s go-ahead goal was three minutes later and the 3rd was a clinic in defence for Sweden.
Sweden opens the second decade in a row with a bronze medal win but, remains goldless again since 2012 despite their 52-straight wins in group play. Finland falls to fourth after winning gold last year in Canada.
Alexis Lafreniere was named tournament MVP and was a part of the media all-star starting lineup. Hayton and Hofer were also named to the team, as well as Swedes Fagemo and Sandin, and Russian defenceman Alexander Romanov.