Led by Winnipeg-born netminder Joel Hofer and Brandon-born defenceman Calen Addison, Team Canada came from behind to win the 2020 IIHL World Junior Hockey Championship 4-3 over Russia from Ostrava, Czech Republic Sunday afternoon. Hofer turned aside 35 shots, while Addison picked up three assists in the tournament’s final game.
After falling 6-0 to the same Russians earlier in the preliminary round, Canada responded with five-straight wins, while battling through major injuries to both projected 2020 No. 1 NHL Entry Draft selection Alexis Lafreniere (sprained knee) and team captain Barrett Hayton (Grade 1 shoulder separation).
Going up against Russia – Canada’s most historic hockey rival – the Canadians got off to a rough start, then later found themselves down on a two-goal third period deficit. But in typical Canadian tear, Canada battled back in dramatic fashion, rallying for a three-goal final frame, en route to the nation’s 18th gold medal.
The game began with multiple penalties against the Canadians, where the team relied on rock-steady netminding from Hofer, killing off all four opening frame minors, to go along with 10 Russian shots in the scoreless first period. Russia and Canada exchanged goals in the second period, with Yegor Zamula redirecting a puck past Hofer for the first goal on the Canadian netminder in 34 shots and over 100 minutes of hockey.
Dylan Cozens tied the game just a minute-and-a-half later, 22 seconds into an extended 2:00 five-on-three man advantage. But just 3:45 later Grigori Denisenko jammed a loose puck from under Hofer into the Canadian net, taking a 2-1 lead into the third period of play.
Russia began the final frame with another goal 8:46 in, jumping ahead by two goals. But once again, Connor McMichael scored for the fourth-straight game, just 34 seconds after the 3-1 marker, redirecting Calen Addison’s point shot past Amir Miftakov, brining Canada to within one.
With Dmitri Voronkov in the box for crosschecking, captain Hayton wired a power play wrist shot top shelf, blocker side, sending the Canadian crowd into jubilation. The excitement would build into celebration less than five minutes later, as Akil Thomas picked up a loose puck and drove to the Russian net, beating Miftakov on his way down to the ice, giving Canada a 4-3 lead.
Following a discrepancy involving a centre-ice camera on a potential delay-of-game penalty after already down a man, Canada escaped another minor infraction, before the Russians took back-to-back penalties in the game’s final two minutes, sealing the deal for Hofer, Addison and the Canadian team.
After coming in in relief to Nico Daws in the second game of the tournament, Hofer went a perfect 5-0 with a 1.60 goals against average, a .939 save percentage and one shutout and was named Best Goaltender of the Tournament, joining names such as Manny Legace, Carey Price and Steve Mason on a long list of accomplished Canadian netminders.
Now winners of three gold in the past six years, the members of the 2020 National Junior team will spend the night partying in Czech Republic before returning home to their Junior or College clubs. Both Addison, who picked up three assists, and Hofer, who made 35 saves Sunday, will re-join their respective Western Hockey League clubs, as the Brandon product will travel to Lethbridge to meet up with his Hurricanes teammates, while Winnipeg’s Hofer will head south to catch up with his fellow Portland Winterhawks. Both will head home a couple pounds heavier, wearing their nation’s gold medal hung proudly around their necks.