(BUFFALO, NY) – Canada has competed in the World Juniors Hockey Tournament since its inception in Tampere Findland in 1975, wherein the Swedes sent Canada packing 17-1 in the Championship game. Since then, of course, our junior Canucks have done us very proud claiming the top prize on 16 occasions, including five straight Golds from 2005 to 2009.
Yet perhaps this year’s 3-1 win over arch rival Sweden is among the sweetest thus far. Not because Sweden, rivals Canada as the epitome of Junior hockey supremacy, or equals us as the pre-eminent source of NHL hockey talent, but because the USA team to our south has been battling Canada to become North America’s #1 rival to Sweden as Europe’s prime delegate in the tournament.
Suffice to say that while Canada prevailed over Sweden to claim Gold, it’s telling that the USA had to settle for bronze.
It was also telling that Canada’s game winner with 1:42 to play in the 3rd, a deflection off a shot from the point by Conor Timmins, was scored by unsung hero Tyler Steenbergen.
Steenbergen was typical of the skilled role players that filled the roster of this year’s team. Absent were the team leading superstars like Connor McDavid and John Tavares who dazzled hockey fans in the past, yet the Canadian style of hard nosed and discipline hockey was good enough.
Conversely, the formerly unbeaten Swedes were marginally favoured going into the championship game, lead by Rasmus Dahlin, the presumed #1 pick overall in the the 2018 NHL draft. As well as the top two scoring forwards in the tournament, Lias Andersson and Elias Pettersson.
Not to mention, the Swedes were backstopped by netminder Filip Gustavsson, the toruney’s #1 goalie with a .924 save percentage over Canada’s third place Carter Hart with a .914 save percentage.
Although the Swedes dominated Canada in overall shot attempts, their only goal was a short handed one, at 9:19 of the 2nd period, by Tim Soderland which tied it 1-1. They notably scored 4 other short handed goals earlier in the tournament, and were tops on the penalty kill.
After the Canadians went up 2-1 on Steenbergen’s deflection, Alex Formenton’s empty-netter moments later sealed the win and the Canadians’ first gold medal since 2015.