Friday, January 5, 2018

Canada wins thriller

Tyler Steenbergen scored the biggest goal of his life, and Canada won the gold medal by defeating Sweden, 3-1.

Steengeren had played just 3:17 through two periods, had but four shots in the entire tournament, and had yet to score. In two days he'll turn 20, so he can consider this an early birthday present of the highest quality.
The goal couldn't have happened without Drake Batherson's determined forecheck. His tenacity produced a turnover that led to a superb slap-pass from the point by Connor Timmins. It was deflected in front by Steenbergen, breaking a 1-1 tie and sending Canada on to World Junior gold for the first time since 2015.
The win provided a double dose of revenge. One, for erasing terrible memories of the 2011 gold-medal game in Buffalo when the team blew a 3-0 lead in the third period. And two, for erasing more recent memories of a heart-breaking loss to the United States last year in the finals. 
Seven players from 2017 won gold tonight: Carter Hart, Dillon Dube, Jake Bean, Kale Clague, Dante Fabbro, Michael McLeod, and Taylor Raddysh. As well, coach Dominique Ducharme was there last year, victorious tonight.
Canada won despite going 0-for-6 on the power play, which had been its forte all tournament. But the Swedes clearly did their homework before the game and not only neutralized the potent power play but scored short-handed as well.
On the other side of the ledger, Canada did not incur a penalty for the last 51 minutes of the game. In all, Sweden had 22 PIMs to Canada's 2 (10 of the former going to Oskar Steen for a last-minute misconduct).
For Sweden, the disappointment is bitter. It hadn't won gold since 2012 and finished runner-up in the bronze-medal game for the last three years.
The first period proved that you don’t need goals for exciting hockey; you need only skilled players moving freely up and down the ice.
The Swedes didn’t get the start they wanted, though. Without doubt, the first thing on coach Tomas Monten’s checklist of what not to do was to not take penalties. Canada had converted on nearly 60 per cent of all power plays through the first six games, and this was an aspect of the game that might well decide gold.
That being said, just 3:46 after the opening faceoff, Gustav Lindstrom took an interference penalty. Although Canada had a couple of good chances, goalie Filip Gustavsson stood tall and the danger was averted.
A little later, the Swedes got a power play of their own, to no great effect. The Swedes had more shots in the first—16-9—but Canada had as many decent scoring chances. Both goalies were steady and letter perfect.
Not so in the second. Canada opened the scoring just 1:49 into the period on a couple of great plays by Jordan Kyrou and Dillon Dube. Kyrou brought the puck up ice and slid a nice pass straight ahead to Dube, who was covered by Timothy Liljegren.
Dube managed to fight off the check, control the puck, and then snap a shot over the glove of a surprised Gustavsson, thrilling the massive Canadian crowd of 17,544.
That got both teams going, but the Swedes in particular stepped it up a notch. Defenceman Rasmus Dahlin made several fine rushes, creating some good scoring chances, but Hart was rock solid and square to the shooter on every puck that went his way.
But when Canada went to the power play later in the period, Sweden struck. Canada's Robert Thomas pinched at the Sweden blue line and Linus Lindstrom and Tim Soderlund bolted up ice on a two-on-two. They criss-crossed inside the Canadian blue line, and Soderlund wired a high shot short side off the post and in at 13:07 to tie the game.
It was Sweden’s third short-handed goal in its last three periods of hockey. 
As the third period progressed, shifts got shorter and players more cautious, but there were still moments in what felt like an overtime period. Sweden won a faceoff in the Canadian end, and defenceman Jesper Sellgren ripped a shot off the post behind Hart.
A short time later, Boris Katchouk snapped a shot off Gustavsson's shoulder that would have gone in but for the fine save.
Canada came perilously close to winning in regulation on its last power play when Taylor Raddysh tipped a shot off the post, but the puck stayed out, setting the stage for Steenbergen's heroics.
Alex Formenton salted the win with an empty netter 36 seconds later.

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