STEENBERGEN SCORES LATE, CANADA WINS WJC GOLD
JASON LA ROSE
BUFFALO, N.Y. – Tyler Steenbergen (Sylvan Lake, Alta./Swift Current, WHL) picked a perfect time for his first goal of the tournament, scoring the winner with 1:40 remaining to give Canada’s National Junior Team a 3-1 win over Sweden on Friday night and its 17th gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
With overtime looming, Drake Batherson (New Minas, N.S./Cape Breton, QMJHL) won a puck battle in the corner and fed Conor Timmins (Thorold, Ont./Sault Ste. Marie, OHL), who found Steenbergen for a redirection at the side of the net to ignite the pro-Canadian crowd of 17,544 at the KeyBank Center.
Steenbergen, who skated as the 13th Canadian forward for most of the tournament, had been the lone forward not to find the back of the net before his late-game heroics.
Sweden held a 16-9 advantage in shots on goal in the first period, but Carter Hart (Sherwood Park, Alta./Everett, WHL) held his ground and ensured the game got to the first intermission goalless.
It took less than two minutes of the second period for Canada to open the scoring; Jordan Kyrou (Toronto, Ont./Sarnia, OHL) fed Dillon Dubé (Cochrane, Alta./Kelowna, WHL), and the Canadian captain went upstairs over the glove of Swedish netminder Filip Gustavsson for a 1-0 lead.
The Swedes got even with just under seven minutes to go in the middle frame when Tim Soderlund went post and in past Hart for a shorthanded goal, sending the game to the third period tied 1-1.
Both teams came close in the final stanza before the Steenbergen goal. Jesper Sellgren ripped a slap shot off the post behind Hart early in the third, and Taylor Raddysh (Caldeon, Ont./Erie, OHL) hit iron on a Canadian power play.
Sweden put Gustavsson on the bench after the Canadians took the lead, and Alex Formenton (King City, Ont./London, OHL) hit the empty net with just over a minute to go for an insurance marker to officially get the party started.
Hart ended up with 35 saves, and finished with a tournament-leading 1.81 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. He tied Jimmy Waite and Stéphane Fiset for most career wins by a Canadian goaltender at the World Juniors, with eight.
Cale Makar (Calgary, Alta./University of Massachusetts, HE), who co-led all defencemen in the tournament with eight points (three goals, five assists), was the lone Canadian named to the media all-star team.
Canada will defend its gold medal on home ice in 2019 when Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., play host.