SCOTIABANK PLACE - Canada has done it. By defeating Sweden 5-1 at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, the host nation has won gold for the fifth straight year, a level of success matched only by the Canadians from 1993 to 1997.
Sweden had to settle for silver for the second straight year. Leading the way for Canada was goalie Dustin Tokarski, who was aided by a defence that got stick and body in the way of countless Swedish shots on goal. The result capped a perfect six-win run at this tournament for Canada, which outscored the opposition 46-12.
The team was coached by Pat Quinn, a “Curious Case of Benjamin Button” figure who has coached younger and younger teams as he has gotten older. And so, at 65, he is the oldest Canadian gold-medal coach in World U20 Championship history. A tournament-record crowd of 20,380 took in the game.
"We started better tonight and we were in control of our game," said Quinn. "Scoring right away took a lot of pressure off us. Our defence pushed their attack to the outside for most of the night as well."
Cody Hodgson had a pair for the defending champions, and P.K. Subban, Angelo Esposito, and Jordan Eberle also scored for Canada. Joakim Andersson replied for Sweden.
"Winning on home ice was better than overseas," said tournament MVP John Tavares. who captured his second gold and shared the scoring title in Ottawa with Hodgson (16 points apiece). "The fans were great, and a lot of our families were here too, which was great. It's such an honour to win again."
Sweden didn’t get the start it was looking for. After a scrum in front of goalie Jacob Markstrom, Mikael Backlund took an unnecessary--and undisciplined--penalty just 22 seconds after the opening faceoff. And just 16 seconds later, P.K. Subban jammed the puck home for an early 1-0 lead, much to the delight of the 20,380 fans, most of whom were decked out in red and white.
"We wanted to play a physical game against them," said Sweden's Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi. "But they got that early goal and that changed things. Unfortunately, they saved their best for last."
"We wanted to get some traffic in front of Markstrom and go after rebounds," said Hodgson. "He's a great goalie and a lot of us knew him from the U18 championship."
The rest of the period was evenly played. The Swedes skated their jitters away, and although Canada had a few good scoring chances, it couldn’t add a second goal. Hodgson had the best chance toward the end of the period on a fine rush down the middle, but his quick shot slipped through Markstrom’s pads and out the other side.
Canada started the second period sluggishly and Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi had a great chance early on, but Tokarski stopped the deke calmly. At 3:31, Angelo Esposito and Markstrom collided while chasing a puck in the faceoff circle.
Markstrom went down in a heap, but he was 20 feet out of his crease and fair game in the eyes of the Russian and Swiss referees. Defenceman Victor Hedman wrestled Esposito to the ground, and although no penalties were called on the play, Hedman was booed mercilessly by the fans for the rest of the game.
Just 35 seconds later, Esposito made a stunning play, coming out of the corner on his backhand and roofing a shot to the far side to beat Markstrom. The goal lifted the crowd off their feet and gave Canada a commanding 2-0 lead. The play not only added to Canada’s goal total but took all the wind out of Sweden’s sails, and much of the rest of the period was played in Markstrom’s end of the ice.
Later in the period, Markstrom was involved in another collision, this while heading to the bench on a delayed penalty. He collided with Stefan Della Rovere and both players received minors for their various antics (roughing and interference, respectively). Indeed, Canada spent much of the game going hard to the crease and disturbing Markstrom’s blue-ice tranquility. The fans added Markstrom’s name to the booing list, and even though Canada ran into a bit of penalty trouble, it still went to the dressing room after 40 minutes with a two-goal lead.
Canada made it 3-0 just 33 seconds into the third period thanks to a quick screened shot from the point by Hodgson. The power play goal was the result of a Backlund interference penalty at the end of the second. The goal more or less sealed the victory for Canada, although the Swedes never gave up.
Sweden's Joakim Andersson cut the deficit to 3-1 at 8:30 when he came out from behind the goal and fired a high shot over Tokarski’s shoulder on a power play.
"We had a lot of power play chances," said Hedman afterwards. "If a couple of bounces had gone our way, the game might have turned out differently. We made it 3-1 in the third period and made a game of it."
Sweden called a time-out with 2:41 remaining, but to no avail. Jordan Eberle sealed Canada's victory with an empty-netter at 18:07, and Hodgson added another with less than half a minute left. Confetti showered everywhere as the crowd rejoiced. Canada remains on top of the junior hockey world.
"I think this game and the game against the US were our toughest," said Canada's Chris DiDomenico. "It's a dynasty right now. Five in a row is pretty sweet."
"There's nothing more rewarding than working with young men like these who want to play for their country," said Quinn. "And to see them succeed is all that I need as a coach."
Shots on goal favoured Sweden 40-31.
Overall tournament attendance was 453,282, a new all-time mark.