Team Canada wins world junior hockey gold
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Jan 05, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Team Canada wins world junior hockey gold

Max Domi, Connor McDavid, Anthony Duclair spark Canada's offence in wild win over Russia at ACC


While the Air Canada Centre rocked, it was Team Canada that rolled over Russia.

And because of it, gold — the world junior hockey version of it — is back on Canadian soil. An elated bunch of teenagers could not contain their joy.

"We're world junior champions. We're world champions," said McDavid. "It's joy. We were never really under pressure. The media and all the fans might've been putting that pressure on us, but we were just able to brush it off. Right now this is just absolute joy."

A star-studded Canadian team came in waves — McDavid, Anthony Duclair, Max Domi, Sam Reinhart — to overwhelm their Russian rivals early and held on late in a 5-4 frenetic, nerve-wracking finale to the world junior hockey championship.

"Unbelievable," said Reinhart, who led the tournament in scoring. "I'm glad I was on the ice and not in the stands in the second period for a while there. The character in the room prevailed and we stuck with it in the third."

The Russians rolled back with three straight goals after trailing 5-1 in the second. Canada bent but it did not break, holding on in a scoreless third period for Canada’s first gold medal in six years.

"To end the streak of Canada not being on top, we can finally call this game ours," said captain Curtis Lazar. "What a way to do it."

The team mobbed goalie Zach Fucale when the buzzer sounded and the crowd went wild to fireworks as helmets and gloves went flying.

"Everything from breakfast to now - it all stands out," said McDavid. "It's unbelievable. We were able to brush off (the Russian rally). It was pure joy."

"Crazy," added McDavid. "The crowd out there was unbelievable. They were with us every step of the way. Such a loud building. Just standing on the blue line and singing the national anthem with 22 of my good buddies. The crowd. It's hard to explain."

It's Canada’s first medal of any colour in three years, and first gold in six. The last Canadian team to win featured John Tavares in Ottawa in 2009.

A team built around size, speed and skill from the Canadian junior ranks, fortified by a pair of players on loan from the NHL, skated into Canada’s hearts with a dominating performance that started with an 8-0 win on Boxing Day against Slovakia and never relented.

"I knew from the get-go with this group we had that we weren't going to be stopped," said Lazar. "Regardless of the adversity we were going to have to face, we were going to find a way."

Canada went 7-0 and never trailed in the tournament.

Domi won over fans with the kind of skill his father wishes he'd had. Domi led Canada with a goal and two assists against Russia. McDavid lived up to his billing as Canada’s next great player, scoring on a breakaway. Reinhart added a goal and an assist with an all-around effort. Nick Paul chipped in with a goal just to show that all lines could produce.

On loan from the Ottawa Senators, Lazar provided leadership. From the New York Rangers, Duclair provided riveting offence.

"As a coach, this was a dream team," said coach Benoit Groulx, who used videotaped messages from Canada's gold medal Olympic team in Sochi to convince his players to accept roles. "If the best players in the world can do it," he said, "you can do it."

The players took that to heart.

But star power only gets you so far. It can be intimidating, but sometimes you’re only as good as you are in your own zone. The Russians tested Zach Fucale harder than he’d been tested all tournament. Canada had allowed five goals over the first seven games, then four through two periods of the gold medal game.

"That's the beauty of junior hockey," said Lazar. "Back and forth. You think you have it in the bag and they come back. That's what the Russians did.

"I thought our guys did a great job regrouping and staying calm. We just took a breath together. We knew we would be okay that stuff like that would happen."

- This story is updated from an earlier version

Toronto Star

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