The Canadians had been the class of the 1990 IIHF World Junior Championship in Finland, taking home the gold medal for the second time in three years, finishing ahead of the Soviet Union on the strength of a 6-4 win in Helsinki on New Year’s Day.
One year later, with the tournament set for home ice in Saskatoon, SK, Canada returned just six players from their 1990 championship team – Patrice Brisebois, Mike Craig, Kris Draper, Eric Lindros, Kent Manderville and Steven Rice – while the Soviets returned seven from their silver medal squad.
The round robin went according to plan for the Canadians – almost. A 4-4 tie with the Americans on December 27th left the tournament hosts a point back of the Soviets, and a Soviet win over Finland on January 3rd would give them the gold and make the next day’s final round robin game one for bronze for the Canadians, instead of the gold they wanted.
But the Finns would do Canada a monumental favour, as Jarkko Varvio scored with just 15 seconds remaining to pull out a 5-5 tie with the Soviets, leaving Canada and the Soviet Union tied atop the standings, and making their January 4th showdown one for gold.
The game was another classic Canada-Soviet Union match-up, as the Canadians jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Pierre Sevigny and Rice, only to see the Soviets claw their way back and pull even on a Sandis Ozolinsh goal 3:50 into the final period.
Despite being outshot 17-3 in the final 20 minutes, it only took one for Canada to leave Saskatoon with gold, and that one came from a most unlikely source.
John Slaney, who had not scored in the tournament, got a seeing-eye point shot through traffic and past Soviet goaltender Sergei Sviagin with just 5:13 to go, giving Canada a 3-2 lead that it would not relinquish. Slaney actually got so excited after his game-winner that he sprained his ankle in the celebration, and watched the final five minutes from the Canadian bench.
Trevor Kidd and the Canadian defense held the Russians at bay for the final five minutes, giving Canada its second consecutive gold medal, and fifth overall, at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Lindros earned the tournament’s Top Forward award from the IIHF Directorate, and was joined by Craig on the Tournament All-Star Team.
GOLD – Canada
SILVER – Soviet Union
BRONZE – Czechoslovakia
IIHF DIRECTORATE AWARDS:
TOP FORWARD: Eric Lindros (CAN)
TOP DEFENSEMAN: Jiri Slegr (TCH)
TOP GOALTENDER: Pauli Jaks (SUI)
TOURNAMENT ALL-STAR TEAM:
G Pauli Jaks (SUI)
D Scott Lachance (USA)
D Dmitri Yuskkevich (URS)
F Mike Craig (CAN)
F Eric Lindros (CAN)
F Martin Rucinsky (TCH)