A late goal put Canada past Sweden and closed out another golden run.
One of the greatest holiday traditions we have over the winter holidays is the World Juniors hockey tournament. Not only is it the perfect mix of Canadianity and relaxation for many of us, it is often another reason to celebrate. Canada has traditionally dominated the international tournament, and has always been near the top of the latter when it comes to junior hockey programs. This year was no exception.
Ever since Wayne Gretzky proclaimed that he and his 1978 teammates had nobody to worry about at the tournament, successive Teams Canada have essentially been in the same boat. While they don’t win every year, and occasionally miss the gold medal game, this year they added another golden notch to their extensive world championship belt. Sweden was the last victim of the tournament, as the Canadians won an exciting gold medal game, 3-1.
While the comedic highlight of the tournament may have been Swiss head coach Christian Wohlwend’s comments about the superiority of the Canadian boys, he wasn’t exactly wrong.
“They’re faster, they’re bigger, they’re stronger, they can shoot better, they can pass better, they can do everything better.”
“They’re faster, they’re bigger, they’re stronger, they can shoot better, they can pass better, they can do everything better,” were among his widely-shared comments. As it turns out, he was right.
Despite some of the unusually high scores that Canada put up against certain teams in the tournament, they did face some difficulty, especially against the United States and in the final game against the Swedes. The loss to the Americans has been attributed to everything from just an off game to the effects of the outdoor rink, but it was the second consecutive time that the Canadians had fallen in a shootout to their southern neighbours, dating back to last year’s gold medal final. No matter the reason, it seems to have turned into what many in the sports world would call blackboard material, or something negative that a team can use to drive future performance and ‘avenge’ a slight.
Whatever mishaps may have played a part in that early-tournament loss to the U.S.A., they didn’t play a part against Sweden. The game was tightly contested all the way through, and it was an unexpected hero that netted the game-winner late. Alex Steenbergen, far from the highest draft pick on the team, having gone in the fifth round to the Coyotes, put in the go-ahead goal with 1:40 left. An empty netter came later to cement the final score at 3-1, but it was Steenbergen who lifted the Canadians past the eventual silver-medalists.
The first goal of the game came from Canadian team captain Dillon Dube just under two minutes into the second period, and the final goal went into an empty net off the stick of Alex Formenton to seal the deal.