The World Junior Hockey Championship. A great array of talent from team prospects and draft-eligible players to see what they can do. This tournament holds hockey’s future, and that future looks bright.
Now I will be one of the first people to tell you I believe the World Juniors are better than the NHL. The flow of play is faster, getting a glimpse at your favorite team’s prospects, but the desire in many of these young player’s hearts to win the gold medal is outstanding. Everyone’s dream is to someday win the Stanley Cup, but players know that will take more years of hard work. World Junior gold is like a short term goal for players as it is the first major international trophy these kids can win. This helps on their ultimate goal, winning the Stanley Cup. As a fan, you hope that some of your favorite team’s players are in the tournament as the World Juniors are a great place for development.
For people who do not know how the tournament. It is an international tournament played with 10 teams with players 19 or younger. Six of those 10 teams are the world hockey powers (Canada, Russia, Sweden, U.S, Czech Republic, Finland) and 4 qualifying teams (Germany, Slovakia, Latvia and Kazakstahn). These teams were divided into two groups, group A and group B. Everybody played each team in their group once during the preliminary round. The first place team of each group gets a BYE to the semifinal. The 2nd and 3rd place teams of each group would play in the quarterfinals with the highest seeded team playing the lowest seeded team from the other group. Then winner moves on obviously.
Many people had doubt in Canada this year. I was a doubter too. The team just seemed too undersized and the goaltending was not strong as anticipated and seemed they would be manhandled by the likes of Sweden and the Americans.
The big game in the preliminary round was Canada versus U.S on New Year’s Eve. The U.S pulled up 3-0 before the Canadian comeback brought the game to 5-4 Canada. The Americans are pressing to get the tying goal and this is what ensues…
Canada would add a few empty netters to make the final score 7-4.
With a BYE to the semifinal after seeing Sweden beat Slovakia to make it to the finals, Canada had a big game against Russia. If anyone remembers the World Hockey Championships last year I was really steamed that Canada lost to the Russians in OT in the gold medal game. Canada scores for a quick 1-0 lead, Russians respond quickly, the score then becomes 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4 all leads being Canadian leads. With less than 5 minutes to go in the 3rd period, Russia gets its first lead of the game at 5-4. Canada has to pull the goalie out with 1 minute to go. The Russians get a prime opportunity to score the empty netter but miss and it becomes icing. Ensuing faceoff…
The rest was history as Canada would win in a shootout 6-5 with the Russians totally defeated after that goal. People wonder why Canadians are so damn happy all the time. It’s for moments like these and some tasty maple syrup!
The gold medal game was played this past Monday, Canada versus Sweden. This was an anticipated matchup since it boasted two draft eligible players trying to become first overall. Victor Hedman for Sweden and John Tavares from Canada. The game turned out not to be as close as it would be with Canada winning 5-1. Five straight gold medals for our Canadian Junior Squad.
My family was ecstatic, my friends at the school were ecstatic. It was great to see that I was proven wrong.
Whenever Canada plays a hockey game, it brings the whole country together. That is why hockey is Canada’s game.