Canada rolls into gold
by Andrew Podnieks|04 JAN 2021
Connor McMichael scores Canada's second goal in the first period en route to a convincing 5-0 win.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
As it has every game this tournament, Canada roared out to an early lead and never looked back. Tonight, Russia was the victim, and the 5-0 score was richly deserved by the more determined and aggressive Canadians.

The win vaults Canada into the gold-medal game tomorrow night and puts the Russians in the bronze-medal game earlier in the day.
Canada vs Russia (SF) - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
CAN RUS 05 JAN 2021
"Our defence today was phenomenal," enthused coach Andre Tourigny. "They were solid, made plays under pressure, made plays at the blue line. We knew how the Russians attack and break through the middle. That was a key to be able to defend against their speed and skill. They broke up a lot of plays and took their offence towards the boards."

Devon Levi stopped 28 shots for his third shutout, tying Justin Pogge for the U20 record for one tournament. For Russia, it was their most one-sided loss in the semi-finals since the playoff format was introduced in 1996. And, it was Canada's first shutout over Russia since 2006 (14 games).

Canada now has scored 41 goals and allowed just four in six games.

Dylan Cozens led Canada with a goal and two assists. He now leads the tournament in both goals (8) and points (16).

"The backchecking has been unreal," Levi said of his teammates. "It's amazing to see how much help everyone is giving. It makes my job a lot easier, for sure."

"Having a lot of time before the tournament allowed us to get close as a group," Alex Newhook suggested. "In these tournaments, that helps any team. We trust each other on and off the ice to get the job done."

"That early goal gave them momentum, and they deserve the credit," offered Russian coach Igor Larionov. "They were fresher and more determined to start the game. Team Canada played a good, solid game, sound defensively and very efficient offensively, too."

"That's hockey," Russian captain Vasili Podkolzin said. "It's a game, and these things happen. Congrats to Team Canada. They did a great job and deserved the win. We should have played better."

The fun started early and in the strangest way imaginable. Newhook had a great opening shift, culminating with a quick shot in front after he picked up a loose puck to the side of the net that Zakhar Bardakov tried to bat out of harm’s way. 

Newhook whipped a shot that went in and out so quickly even he didn’t realize it. Play continued for 30 seconds and then the official timekeeper blew his horn to stop play, a most unusual occurrence. The referees then reviewed the play and quickly ruled it a goal, the official time being 0:59.  

“I actually had no idea it went in,” Newhook acknowledged. “I thought it hit the crossbar, but when you get an early chance like that and put it away, it’s great for the team.”

The Canadians increased their lead midway through the period thanks to a great pass by Jacob Pelletier to Connor McMichael to the back side of the play. He fought off defenceman Yan Kuznetsov and snapped the puck into the open cage. 

Canada’s sensational period continued with a third goal, this from Cole Perfetti during a four-minute power play. He came off the point and from the top of the circle wired a shot under the glove of Askarov to the far side at 15:05, and the Russians left the ice after 20 minutes in a state of shock.

Nothing changed after the intermission, and Canada’s incredible puck pressure led to its fourth goal at 4:09. This time Askarov lost his stick and while he was trying to get it from Semyon Chistyakov the Canadians moved the puck around, setting up Braden Schneider. His shot beat the goalie to the glove side again. 

The Russians finally got their first power play of the night late in the period and scored after some good puck movement, but no sooner was it in the net than Canada challenged the play for offside. After a lengthy review, it was clear a player's skates had entered the zone before the puck crossed the blue line.

"That was a good goal, and that could have made a big difference in the game," Larionov noted. "When you're losing 4-0 and you're trying to find a way to score some goals and the power play is doing well, scoring that goal was a relief and could have helped us get back in the game. But those are the rules, and we respect them." 

Captain Dylan Cozens was awarded a penalty shot with 29.4 seconds remaining after a determined effort in centre ice created a breakaway, but he was slashed on the play from behind. Askarov made a nice right-toe save, though, keeping the score at 4-0.

Canada stifled every Russian attempt in the third period to rush the puck, pinch, create offence. The closest they came to getting back into the game was a hit post off a drifting point shot by Shakir Mukhamadullin with about seven minutes remaining.

Late in the game, Levi brought a moment of excitement to the game when he fielded the puck behind his own goal and took aim at the empty cage at the other end. His shot, however, hit a teammate in the back. 

Cozens scored an empty netter at 18:31 to finish the scoring. And now, Canada goes for gold.

"You want to be in the last game," said Tourigny. "You want to be part of something special, and that last game will be special. I'm proud for everyone to have made it this far, but I've been on both sides of that game and the right side is way more fun. We have a lot of business still to do."
Canada vs Russia (SF) - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship