Canada rallies for gold
by Andrew Podnieks|07 MAY 2021
Canada defeated Russia, 5-3, to win its first U18 gold since 2013. 
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
Brennan Othmann and Logan Stankoven scored early and late in the second period to break a 2-2 tie and send Canada on its way to a 5-3 gold-medal victory over Russia.

The win gives Canada gold for the first time at the U18 since 2013 when they beat Russia, 8-0, while the Russians are still looking for their first victory since 2007.

Connor Bedard, at 15 years of age, becomes the youngest gold medallist in U18 history. He had a goal and assist tonight while captain Shane Wright led the way with two goals and an assist. Matvei Michkov had a goal and two assists for Russia and led all scorers with 16 points in the tournament.

Canada fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the first to make it a 2-2 tie after 20 minutes before turning on the jets in the middle 20 minutes. It was the first time Canada trailed all tournament, and the team handled the adversity with patience and calm.
"We scored the first goal every previous game, which is a great thing because you have a pretty good chance of winning the game," coach Dave Barr said. "But we talked about it during the first intermission, about being behind and playing from behind, that we don't change our game. It's going to happen against a good team. We just did what we had to do to work our way back in the game."

In the end, Canada won all seven games in regulation, scored 51 goals, and allowed only 12. But there was a moment early in the event when Barr felt things changed and the team learned how to become a champion.

"We were ahead 2-0 against the Swedes in our first game, and we made a dumb play," Barr recalled. "They went down the ice, and our goalie made a great save. And that to me was one of those times – we told the players, we don't need to make plays like this in moments like this. I think we learned from that, that we didn't need to force plays to create offence."

"I'm proud of the way my team played tonight," said Russian coach Albert Leshyov. "They played with Russian character. We played for our country. It was a good game, and I am proud of the way they played. Most certainly we started to lose our focus a bit in the second period, and that changed the way we played." 

But perhaps the keys to victory were the play of goalie Ben Gaudreau and the team's penalty killers. Canada was short-handed five times to three for Russia, but the number-one PK in the tournament allowed only one goal.

Shots were 34-34, but Gaudreau made his saves when it mattered most while at the other end Sergei Ivanov was uneven at best.

"I think they took advantage of our mistakes," said Russian captain Nikita Chibrikov. "In a game like this, you can't make some of the mistakes we made. They got some momentum in the second period and capitalized. But I believe everyone on this team gave 100 per cent tonight."
The fireworks started in the first period and never let up. Gaudreau made a nice stop early, and then Nolan Allan fired Chibrikov into the Canadian bench on a hard check at the blue line.

Russia opened the scoring at 5:13 soon after Allan missed a glorious chance for Canada. Michkov – who else? – claimed a loose puck after Danil Lazutin had been checked off the puck, and his hard shot beat Gaudreau cleanly. It was his tournament-leading 11th goal.

Mason McTavish had a gift-wrapped opportunity to tie the game when he took a pass to the back side of the play, but with the open goal and Ivanov diving back to cover the net, McTavish fired high and wide – and then looked to the heavens in disbelief.

Bedard took a breakaway pass from Brandt Clarke later in the period and was hooked in desperation by Arseni Koromyslov, but Bedard was stopped by Ivanov on the ensuing penalty shot. No matter. Next shift out, he took a pass from Corson Ceulemans in centre ice as the Russians were slow to make a line change. He skated by his man and then roofed a backhand from far out that surprised the Russian goalie, tying the game with a beauty.

Teams kept going end to end, and Russia reclaimed the lead at 18:05 thanks to another great play by Michkov. He made a back pass to Dmitri Buchelnikov, who also beat Gaudreau high for a 2-1 lead.

The Canadians weren’t quite done, though. They earned a power play and connected with only 45.6 seconds remaining, Wright snapping a shot past Ivanov, who was badly screened by Brennan Othmann, stationed just outside the blue ice.
Although entertaining, the first period must have caused concern for both coaches. The second period was more deliberate, with fewer turnovers and fewer scoring chances. Nevertheless, Othmann broke the 2-2 tie at 4:42 when his bad-angle shot went over the shoulder of Ivanov, who was on his knees for no particular reason.

Russia then had two power plays in quick order, and while the first was ineffective the second was marred by bad luck. They hit the post twice behind Gaudreau, but the puck stayed out. 

Canada got a much needed fourth goal late in the middle 20 when Stankoven used Alexander Figurin as a screen and beat Ivanov with another long shot.

"We just stayed calm, didn't panic, stuck to our game plan and system," said Wright. "We were confident in ourselves to be able to come back. In the second, we just keep pushing hard, getting pucks in deep and exposed their defence down low. We kept it simple and knew we'd be successful with that."

Canada played a dangerous game of trying to sit on the lead in the third, and it cost them. Russia earned a power play and connected when Vladimir Grudinin's shot beat Gaudreau with a scrum of players at his right post. The Canadians looked as though they thought play would be called, but in the confusion their opponents made it a 4-3 game.

Despite some tense moments, though, Canada held the fort and salted the game away when Bedard made a soft pass to Wright in centre, allowing the captain to score into the empty net with 40 seconds left to ensure victory.
Canada vs Russia (Final) - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship