Canada 3 - Sweden 2
HALISCHUK’S OVERTIME GOAL GIVES CANADA GOLD MEDAL AT WORLD JUNIORS
by Alan Adams | Photo Gallery
PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – Color Canada gold for a fourth straight year at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Matt Halischuk (Mississauga, ON/Kitchener, OHL) jammed the puck into the net at 3:36 of overtime to give Canada a 3-2 triumph over Sweden on Saturday in the gold medal game.
Shawn Matthias (Mississauga, ON/Belleville, OHL) forced a turnover in the Swedish end and Halischuk pounced on the puck to score what has to be the biggest goal of his life.
"I'm speechless. I just love these guys," said Halischuk after he emerged from a mob scene of Canadian jerseys in front of the Swedish net.
"This is really special."
The Canadian juniors also dominated the individual awards.
Netminder Steve Mason (Oakville, ON/Kitchener, OHL) was named the Top Goaltender and collected Most Valuable Player honors, while blueliner Drew Doughty (London, ON/Guelph, OHL) was honored as Top Defenceman. Russia's Viktor Tikhonov was named Top Forward.
"It is unbelievable and I can't believe we won," said Mason. "This is the best feeling I have ever had in my whole life. I am just the happiest guy in the world right now.”
It was the third straight gold medal for head coach Craig Hartsburg, who was the head coach last year in Sweden and was an assistant coach in Vancouver at the 2006 tournament.
"You can't compare any of them. They are all great," said Hartsburg.
It was Canada's seventh straight appearance in the gold medal game and the 10th straight year that Canada has won a medal at the World Juniors.
Only twice has a country won four straight gold medals. The former Soviet Union were the top team from 1977 to 1980, while Canada captured five straight from 1993 to 1997.
That mark will look to be equaled one year from now when Ottawa plays host to the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Brad Marchand (Hammonds Plains, NS/Halifax, QMJHL), who seems to play his best hockey against Sweden, got the Canadians started on the right foot when he batted the puck past Swedish netminder Jhonas Enroth just 1:27 after the opening face-off.
Marchand was in on Canada’s second goal as well, setting up Claude Giroux (Ottawa, ON/Gatineau, QMJHL) late in the opening period on a Canadian powerplay.
After a scoreless second period, the Swedes made things interesting when Jonathan Carlsson scored on the power play at 5:13 – Sweden started their comeback in their 4-3 preliminary round win over Canada with a goal at the 5:14 mark of the third period – cutting the lead to 2-1.
With the clock ticking down and Enroth on the bench for the Swedes, Thomas Larsson found the puck in a scramble in front of the Canadian goal and beat Mason with just 38 seconds to go to force overtime, leading to Halischuk’s heroics.
"The Swedes were unbelievable in the third period and there was nothing we could do to stop them, they just kept coming," said Hartsburg. "The kids were on the heels and we talked on the bench, but give them credit. They regrouped and came out and I am just speechless, really. I am so happy for these kids. They are a great group of kids."
The Canadians lost the services of forward Stefan Legein (Oakville, ON/Niagara, OHL) after just one shift with a right shoulder separation.
Winning a gold medal numbed the discomfort.
"What pain?" said Legein. "It is hard to feel the pain when you have a gold medal around your neck."
Ten players, including forwards Kyle Turris (New Westminster, BC/University of Wisconsin, WCHA), Steven Stamkos (Unionville, ON/Sarnia, OHL) and John Tavares (Oakville, ON/Oshawa, OHL), are eligible to return next year in the drive for five.