PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – In an overtime thriller, Canada earned its fourth consecutive gold medal at the U20 World Championship with a 3-2 win against Sweden.
Canada squandered a 2-0 lead as Sweden struck for two goals in the third period to send the game into overtime. But the Swedes ran out of magic 3:36 into the extra period when Matt Halischuk scored to lift the Canadians to the title.
Canada became the first team to win the gold medal after skating in the quarterfinal game since the IIHF adopted the automatic berth to the semi-final for the top preliminary round team in 2002. Ironically, it was Sweden’s 4-3 win against Canada in the preliminary round that sent the Canadians to play in the quarterfinals. It was also a grudge match for the Canadians, who saw their 20 game winning streak snapped in the preliminary round loss.
"It's incredible to win gold for your country," said Canada's John Tavares. "Standing on the blue line it's an awesome feeling, so much pride."
After being held scoreless for 45 minutes, Sweden sparked to life. Motivated by Jonathan Carlsson’s power-play tally 5:13 into the third period, the Swedes skated furiously to get the game-tying goal. It looked like the Canadians would hold on for the regulations win when, with their goaltender pulled and only 38 seconds left in the game, the Swedes got the game-tying goal. Tomas Larsson forced the puck in from the top of the crease to send the game into overtime.
Canada took the early momentum when Brad Marchand scored just 1:27 into the game. Sweden settled down after the goal and played the solid hockey that has been its trademark through this championship. But Canada was persistent in its attack and took the 2-0 lead with 2:59 left in the period when goaltender Jhonas Enroth couldn’t cover the puck on one side of the crease allowing Marchand to pass to Claude Giroux, who was waiting on the other side of the crease for the easy put in.
A big reason for Canada’s success for much of the game was the play of goaltender Steve Mason, who swept the individual awards after being named the directorate’s best goaltender, the tournament MVP and to the media all-star team. Joining Mason on the awards list was teammate Drew Doughty, who was named the directorate’s best defenseman and to the media all-star team.
For Sweden, defenseman Victor Hedman and forward Patrik Berglund were also named to the media all-star team.
Pardubice has been like an honorary Canadian province throughout the U20 championship as thousands of Canadian fans made the overseas pilgrimage to cheer on their team. Today, their loyalty paid off as they were treated to the fourth Canadian gold in as many years. It was the 10th straight medal for the Canadians, who will try to make it five straight in 2009 on home ice in Ottawa.