Canada celebrates after beating Russia in the world juniors in the Czech Republic on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (IIHF)

Canada beats Russia 4-3 in world juniors hockey tournament to take home gold

Canada comes from behind to get gold

Canada is golden again at the world junior hockey championship.

Akil Thomas scored with 3:58 left in the third period to cap a furious comeback and secure a 4-3 victory for the country’s 18th title at the annual under-20 tournament.

The Los Angeles Kings prospect stretched to grab a loose puck before roofing a backhand for his first goal of the event past Amir Miftakhov to send Ostravar Arena into a frenzy.

Connor McMichael, with a goal and an assist, Dylan Cozens and Barrett Hayton, in a gutsy return from injury, provided the rest of the offence for Canada.

Joel Hofer, who wasn’t on Hockey Canada’s radar before the fall and started the event as the backup, got the win, while Alexis Lafreniere and Calen Addison each added two assists.

Grigori Denisenko, with a goal and an assist, Nikita Alexandrov and Maxim Sorkin replied for the Russians, who have now lost four finals since last winning gold in 2011. Miftakhov took the loss in goal.

Hayton, who entered Sunday tied for the tournament’s overall scoring lead with 11 points, hurt is left his shoulder in Saturday’s 5-0 drubbing of Finland, but was good to go against Russia. Bowen Byram, meanwhile, recovered from an illness that kept the defenceman sidelined for the semifinals.

Russia advanced to the final thanks to 5-4 overtime victory against Sweden, which beat Finland 3-2 for bronze earlier Sunday.

Canada, which had outscored opponents 22-5 over its last four games, fell behind 3-1 at 8:46 of the third when Sorkin roofed a shot upstairs.

But the Canadians responded 34 seconds later when Addison’s point shot went in off McMichael’s skate for his fifth of the tournament.

Canada went back on the power play with under nine minutes to go, and Hayton fired his sixth upstairs just 2:01 later before Akil scored to cap a three-goal flurry in six minutes 42 seconds.

The Canadians weren’t out of the woods, however, and had to fight off a 6-on-4 man advantage with under two minutes to go.

But the Russians were whistled for interference, forcing Miftakhov back into his goal.

Russia imploded and took another penalty for playing with a broken stick as Canada ran out the clock with a 5-on-3 man advantage of its own before spilling off the bench in celebration.

After a scoreless penalty-filled first period where Canada killed of four Russian power plays, Alexandrov finally connected on his team’s sixth man advantage when he tipped Yegor Zamula’s point shot through Hofer’s five-hole for his second at 9:37 of the second.

The Canadians responded at 11:01 after two Russian players were whistled for infractions on the same play. Lafreniere wheeled into the high slot that Miftakhov stopped, but Cozens was there to bang home his second.

Canada stayed on the power play, with Joe Veleno coming close on a one-timer. Liam Foudy was then robbed on a 2-on-1 with the teams back at even strength.

Russia went back in front 2-1 at 5:14 left in the period when Alexander Romanov’s initial shot from the point rattled Hofer’s mask. The netminder couldn’t control the rebound, and Denisenko got two whacks at the loose puck to score his third.

Canada’s Jacob Bernard-Docker rocked Kirill Marachenko at the blue line late in the period, and the rough stuff continued at the buzzer when Zamula punched Hayton to put his team down a man heading to the third.

Russia killed that one off, and Miftahkov stopped McMichael on a breakaway moments later to set up the wild finish.

Canada earned its first medal in Europe since winning gold in 2008 when the Czech Republic last hosted. The Canadians finished a disappointing sixth on home soil last year when they were upset by Finland in the quarters.

The countries have provided some of the tournament’s most memorable moments — the 2005 gold-medal game featuring Canada’s jam-packed roster of future NHL stars, Jordan Eberle’s late equalizer in the 2009 semis and Russia’s furious comeback from down 3-0 in the third period to win the 2011 event — and Sunday didn’t disappoint.

Sporting its black third jerseys for a fourth straight game, Foudy hit the post less than a minute into a fast-paced, high-intensity first period before Canada got into some serious penalty trouble.

Veleno, Jared McIsaac, Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl each spent time in the box in a tightly-called opening 20 minutes, but Canada managed to kill off all four thanks to the calm, cool Hofer and some key blocked shots.

Canada battled adversity throughout the event, including an embarrassing 6-0 loss to Russia in the preliminary round, the national team’s worst defeat in the tournament’s 44-year history.

That game was a disaster on a number of levels, but the teenage roster with the weight of a nation’s expectation on their collective shoulders rebounded in impressive fashion.

The Canadians lost Lafreniere — its star winger and projected No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft — to a knee injury, had to deal with the fallout of Hayton forgetting to remove his helmet during Russia’s anthem, and a one-game suspension handed to Veleno, its workhorse centre, for a head-butting incident.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Four air ambulance flights out of Terrace delayed or cancelled

Pandemic precautions caused nighttime closure of service station providing weather data to pilots

Skeena Resources, Tahltan prez excited by purchase of Eskay Creek

Skeena gets full control of mine, Barrick gets 12 per cent of Skeena and a one per cent royalty

Seabridge Gold starts drilling along proposed tunnel route north of Stewart

Twin tunnels will connect the KSM mine to its mill and tailings site

Mother grizzly bear with two cubs spotted on Gruchy’s Beach trail near Terrace

Conservation officers also warning public to stay away from Grizzlies on lower Kitimat River

Sources say Canada, U.S. likely to extend mutual travel ban into late August

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility after a phone call with U.S. President

Baby raccoon rescued from 10-foot deep drainage pipe on Vancouver Island

‘Its cries were loud, pitiful and heartbreaking,’ Saanich animal control officer says

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Most Read