Ice HockeyIt has been six years since Canada last won the U-20 World Junior Championship. That happened in 2009 at Ottawa and it was the fifth consecutive championship victory for the Canadian boys. Since then, their only medal had been a bronze in the 2012 edition of the tournament. On January 5, 2015, Canada reversed the trend yet again and beat the powerful Russian side 5-4 in a thrilling encounter at Air Canada Center in Toronto in front of 19000 screaming fans. The tournament, which began on Boxing Day, was hosted in the two Canadian cities of Toronto and Montreal. 10 of world’s best teams participated in the tournament. Canada, Germany, Finland, Slovakia and USA were placed in Group A, whereas the Group B consisted of Czech Republic, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Playing brilliant hockey all along the tournament, Canada won all their 4 league matches in emphatic fashion. The same was true of Sweden, who topped the group B. The two teams, which missed the play-offs, were Germany from Group A and Switzerland from Group B. After showing great performance in the round-robin league games, Sweden was truly unlucky not to win any medals. All the four quarterfinal matches were played on January 2, 2015 in two venues at Toronto and Montreal. At the Bell Center in Montreal, Russia beat USA 3-2 to enter the semifinal and on the same venue, Slovakia also clinched the semifinal berth by defeating the Czech Republic 3-0. At the Air Canada Center in Toronto, Sweden beat Finland 6-3 and Canada beat Denmark 8-0 and the remaining two semifinal spots were filled. From this point onwards, the action shifted to Toronto, where semifinals, bronze medal game and final were played.

In the first semifinal, Russia broke many a Swedish hearts by handing out a 4-1 defeat to arguably one of the better sides in the tournament. The entire city of Toronto crooned over the marvelous Swedes other than also crooning over the home team. Such adoration annoyed the Russians, who were beaten 3-2 by Sweden in the league phase. After the goalless first period, the Russians began with the charge straightaway in the second period and Alex Sharov scored one of his two goals to force the Swedes to go on the defensive. After 5 straight wins, this was the first time that the Swedish team faced dominance from the opposition. The second goal ended the Swede’s penalty kill by their goalkeeper Linux Soderstrom and it came from a blasted point-shot by Ziat Paigin. On their part, the Russians fortified their defense and didn’t allow the Swedish marksmen much of a chance. Gustav Forsling, who was used to crushing the puck from points felt helpless as the Russians refused to blink. Unlike in league games, Russian goalkeeper Igor Shestyorkin stopped brilliantly and denied the Swedes time and time again. Russia went 3-0 ahead in the third period by another goal from Sharov but 10 minutes later, Sweden reduced the lead to 3-1, when Wallmark scored for them. 8 minutes from closing time, Maxim Mamin completed the Swedish rout and Russia stormed into the final.

In the second semifinal, Canada beat Slovakia 5-1 to book their berth for the Gold Medal game against the Russians. The first period was a tense moment as the crowd witnessed Slovak goaltender Denis Godla making fine saves from repeated attempts by the Canadians. But Nic Petan still scored in this period to make it 1-0. Petan went on to score a hat-trick in the match despite Godla’s brave saves. The 1-0 lead continued until the 38th minute of the game and then the Canadians charged again. Petan scored his second goal in the second period Shea Theodore made it 3-0, one minute later. Sloavakia also scored their lone goal in the dying moments of the second period through David Soltes to make the score 3-1. In the third period, Anthony Duclair took the score to 4-1, before Petan completed his hat-trick in the 52nd minute to make it 5-1 as the home team went into the final.

In the closely-fought final played on January 5, Canada beat Russia 5-4 to take the Gold Medal. Anthony Duclair led Canada in scoring within half a minute and Nick Paul made it 2-0 before the game was 3 minutes old. Russia reduced the deficit to 2-1 midway through the first period through Dmitri Yudin. In the second period, Connor McDavid scored to enhance the Canadian lead to 3-1 that soon became 5-1 with Max Domi and Sam Reinhart scoring a goal apiece. Apart from scoring himself, Domi also provided two assists in the match. In the enthralling second half, Russians came back viciously and scored three goals in just over three minutes to narrow the deficit to 5-4. The goal scorers were Ivan Barbashev, Sergey Tolchinsky and Nikolai Goldobin. Brilliant goaltending by Zach Fucale ensured that Canada’s goal was not breached again. Earlier, in the Bronze Medal match, Slovakia defeated Sweden 4-2. It was the sad end for the mercurial Scandinavians, who had excelled for most part of the tournament, before the Russians spoiled their party.