SOCHI - Move aside USA, there's a new sheriff in town. Going undefeated through seven games, Canada won the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship gold medal 3-2, unseating the four-time defending champions.
The Quebec connection came through big time for Canada. Goaltender Philippe Desrosiers was called upon to make 33 saves, while Frédérik Gauthier scored the game-winning goal in the second period.
"Just indescribable, a great feeling. I don't know what to say. Amazing. One of the best feelings in the world," said Gauthier, whose gold medal-winning goal was his first of the tournament.
Despite being outshot nearly three-to-one through two periods, Canada came into the third up 3-2 thanks to a late second period goal from Gauthier. For the U.S. team, this was a familiar story, having been in the same situation against Russia in the semi-final before coming back and eventually winning that game in a shootout.
With the U18 World Championship trophy sitting between the benches awaiting the winner and time running out on a comeback attempt by Team USA, a penalty was called on Canadian defenceman Madison Bowey with 41 seconds left.
But, even though they pulled the goaltender for a 6-on-4 man advantage, the United States simply ran out of magic and couldn't get the tying goal, and the final whistle sounded as the Canadians cleared the bench and mobbed goaltender Philippe Desrosiers.
“I just focused puck by puck and tried to play well for my team, said Desrosiers after the game. “Just really happy right now... this was the best experience of my life, it was my first international tournament and I’m very glad to be a part of Team Canada.”
With the victory, Canada wins its third U18 World Championship gold medal. The loss ends the United States’ four year consecutive U18 gold medal streak.
“Devastated,” said USA head coach Don Granato when asked about the state of his players after the game. “I was hoping to try and have them hold their heads up, but when I left for the press conference there wasn’t a single piece of equipment off of any of them, and a lot of tears.”
“They put a lot in, there’s a lot of pressure on those kids, we came in and everybody’s talking about how we won four in a row and those kids got the best of every team. They were spectacular facing the challenges that were put to them, but it’s just going to take time for them to get over this loss.”
Although it was the States coming out with a lot of pressure on Desrosiers, Canada drew first blood midway through the first period. Desrosiers played excellent through the opening frame, stopping all 14 shots thrown his way by the Americans.
Nine minutes into the period, Nick Baptiste outmuscled two defenders for the puck just inside the U.S. blue line and passed it down to Laurent Dauphin, who beat goaltender Thatcher Demko through the legs with a deke for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Team USA broke through early in the second period. A wrist shot from the point by defenceman Connor Clifton made it through the crowd and caught Desrosiers with a high shot just above his glove to tie the game 1-1.
With the host team out of the medal round, Canada was enthusiastically adopted by the over 6,000-strong Russian crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, chanting the country’s name after the tying goal by USA.
"I think we'll learn Russian soon (laughs)," said Gauthier.
The Americans got the lead for a few minutes in the second, going up 2-1 with a nice goal from Mike McCarron, who came away with the puck after a battle in the corner and fired it straight into the top of the Canadian net.
Canada answered right back with 7:12 left to go in the period as Madison Bowey jammed in a loose puck in front of the USA net, and went back up by a goal with the shot from Gauthier that beat Demko glove side.
“We went on a three-on-two and Baptiste made a really great pass, and I just shot it right away and it went in,” said Gauthier.
Gauthier's shot, scored with under five minutes left in the period, would stand as the deciding goal as Desrosiers shut the door on the Americans the rest of the way.
Steven Santini, J.T. Compher, and Tyler Motte were awarded the Best Player honours for USA. Connor McDavid, the tournament's leading scorer, defenceman Josh Morrissey, and Philippe Desrosiers were the Best Players for Canada.
After the game, the IIHF Directorate Awards were handed out:
Best Goaltender: Juuse Saros, Finland
Best Defenceman: Steven Santini, United States
Best Forward: Connor McDavid, Canada
Most Valuable Player: Connor McDavid, CanadaClick here for the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship website with stories, stats and photos.