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

View Royal mayor victimized in CERB identity theft scam

David Screech shocked to find his CRA account was accessed, his banking information changed

Greater Victoria real estate sales numbers tell two stories for July

Real estate board president Sandi-Jo Ayers talks about pent-up spring demand, low inventory

Driver loses control, crashes into Saanich furniture store

Crash at Lazyboy Furniture store Wednesday afternoon

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should it be mandatory to wear masks when out in public?

B.C. is witnessing an alarming rise in the number of cases of… Continue reading

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram Reels

Facebook has a long tradition of cloning competitive services

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

Most Read