For the fifth year in a row, Canada has taken the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa. The 'Drive for Five' was realized and since 2004 when I first started watching the World Juniors, this was the most exciting tournament.
The heart-stopping moments began on New Years Eve when Canada faced the United States, their first real challenger in Pool A. Their earlier games had been lopsided victories against opponents with underdeveloped hockey programs like Germany and Kazakhstan. Canada was slow to respond in the first period as the US led 3-0, silencing the crowd in Ottawa. They battled back in the second to lead 5-4. The game started to heat up and viewers weren't disappointed. Goalie Dustin Tokarski made one of the most amazing saves I've ever seen at the end of the second.
Crowds also anticipated a great semi-final game as Russia, a regular opponent for Canada, always makes for interesting hockey. Canada trailed 3-0 in the first period and then battled back over the next two periods only to have Russia lead 5-4 as the minutes counted down. With 5.4 seconds to go in the 3rd the impossible happened, #14 Jordan Eberle scored. Canada was still alive in a game that had almost snuffed out their hopes of gold. The two teams went to overtime only to remain scoreless. They then moved on to the shootout where goalie Dustin Takarski was solid, deflecting both shots by Russian players.
And then came the real test. Going into this tournament Sweden seemed like the team to beat. They'd crushed Russia 5-0 in the preliminary round and looked solid going into the finals. My worries lay with Swedish goalie Jacob Marstrom and his ability to keep pucks out of net but I was confident that at least it would be a good game. The first period was by far, Canada's best of the tournament. They consistently put shots on net and kept the pressure on Team Sweden. In the end though, Sweden seemed to fall apart as Canada went on to win the game 5-1.
In all it was the best WJH Tournament I've seen. Pat Quinn was a great pick for coach and team was superb. I look forward to next year in Saskatchewan!