GAME STATS: CANADA 5, RUSSIA 3
FRISCO, Texas – Put the gold medal and a perfect tournament for Canada on
It wasn’t without adversity, but in the end, that made it so much sweeter
for one of the best teams Canada has ever assembled at this level.
Canada’s National Men’s Under-18 Team won its fourth gold medal and first
since 2013 at the IIHF U18 World Championship on Thursday night, defeating
Russia 5-3 in another classic for the ages between these two powerhouse
Shane Wright (Burlington, Ont./Kingston, OHL) posted two goals, setting the
single-tournament Canadian record with nine, despite missing two games
during the preliminary round.
He also added an assist and finished even with Connor Bedard (North
Vancouver, B.C./Regina, WHL) – who had a goal and a helper – atop the
Canadian scoring chart with 14 points, one off Canada’s all-time record of
15 points (set by Tyson Jost in 2016).
Canada overcame a pair of one-goal deficits in the opening frame after
having not trailed at any point in the tournament, taking a 2-2 tie into
the second period where Brennan Othmann (Pickering, Ont./Flint, OHL) and
Logan Stankoven (Kamloops, B.C./Kamloops, WHL) put Canada ahead for good.
Wright took a feed from Bedard in the dying seconds and walked his second
of the game into the empty net to seal the gold for Canada, topped the
podium without a blemish on its perfect 7-0 record.
Benjamin Gaudreau (Corbeil, Ont./Sarnia, OHL) was brilliant in goal again
for Canada, making 31 saves and outduelling tough competition at the other
end in Sergei Ivanov, who made 29 stops.
Russia won the discipline battle, but its high-powered power play, starring
tournament MVP Matvei Michkov, could only muster one goal on five power
plays. Canada went 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
The highly-anticipated final lived up to the hype in the opening minutes
when Gaudreau was called into action early, using his mask to stop Russia’s
first shot of the game that came from a dangerous open look in the slot.
Moments later, defenceman Nolan Allan (Davidson, Sask./Prince Albert, WHL)
set the physical tone with a crunching check on Nikita Chibrinkov that sent
the Russian captain into Canada’s bench.
But soon after, Canada was in uncharted territory trailing on the
scoreboard for the first time in Texas.
Michkov was in the right spot to collect a bouncing puck inside the
blueline and deposit his tournament-leading 12th goal and open the scoring
for Russia just over five minutes into the first frame.
But a final billed as a showcase between the tournament’s two best offences
and the tournament’s two youngest talents in Michkov and Bedard was bound
to have more fireworks.
Bedard’s first opportunity to answer for Canada on a penalty shot was
stopped, but it made his equalizer a minute-and-a-half later that much
sweeter. The 15-year-old put the puck to his backhand on the rush and
elevated his effort top shelf past Ivanov to tie the game with his seventh
Dmitri Buchelnikov had Russia poised to take a one-goal lead into the first
intermission when the forward put Russia back ahead, but Wright was on
target during Canada’s first man advantage to snap his seventh tally
through traffic from his usual spot at the top of the right circle just 35
seconds from the intermission.
Canada carried momentum into the second period and took the lead when
Othmann darted in off the right wing and wired a sharp-angle shot on the
short side past Ivanov.
The steady stream of snipes didn’t stop there. Stankoven was next two
minutes from the end of the second period, dragging the puck and wiring one
into the top corner on the rush after Allan delivered the drop pass just
inside the blueline.
Midway through the third period, Canada seemed to lose focus on a scramble
around Gaudreau’s crease that ended with Vladimir Grudinin beating the
netminder from between the circles to make it a 4-3 game and set the stage
for a stressful finish.
The Russians looked determined, but a late surge with the goalie pulled in
the offensive zone opened up ice for Bedard to find Wright on an
uncontested breakaway to seal the gold medal for Canada.
Gaudreau was a deserving recipient of Top Goaltender honours after leading
all netminders in wins (five), goals-against average (2.20) and save
percentage (.919), while Bedard joined Brandt Clarke (Ottawa, Ont./Barrie,
OHL) on the media all-star team.