On Monday evening, the Canadian National Junior Team punched its ticket to the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal Game with a 5-0 shutout victory over arch-rival Russia by way of a lopsided affair.
Dylan Cozens moved up to fifth place all-time for Canadian scorers in tournament history with another three-point effort, Devon Levi tied Justin Pogge’s tournament record of three shutouts, Wheat Kings defenceman Braden Schneider scored his first goal of the tournament while Jets’ prospect Cole Perfetti also found the twine on a power play marker.
Monday’s game wasn’t even close. And because of that, Canada will move on to the final set for Tuesday evening in Edmonton. With a total of nine returnees from last year’s Gold Medal Game participating in Monday’s contest (split 6-3 for Canada), one may have expected a tighter game, but the Russians fell behind early and just couldn’t regain the lost ground.
“You want to be in the last game,” said Canadian head coach Andre Tourigny post-game. “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.”
Wearing their Heritage Red sweaters, Canada wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, and followed the 2021 tournament tradition of scoring within the game’s opening 10 minutes. After missing the quarterfinal against Czech Republic, Canadian forward Alex Newhook jumped on his own rebound and beat Russian netminder Yaroslav Askarov just 59 seconds into the game.
Roughly nine minutes later, Connor McMichael gave Canada a 2-0 lead, beating Askarov off a nice setup from Jakob Pelletier and Dylan Cozens. Then, with Russian captain Vasily Podkolzin in the box for a four-minute high sticking infraction, Cole Perfetti ripped a low, wrist-shot, glove side, giving Canada a three-goal lead through 20 minutes. Russia also trailed 16-6 in the shot department following just one period of play.
4:09 into the second period, defenceman Braden Schneider found his first goal of the tournament. With Askarov scrambling to find his goal stick, the Wheaties’ blueliner ripped a low shot into the Russian net past Askarov’s glove, extending Canada’s lead to four.
With 2:33 to play in the period, Russia seemingly got its life back, scoring on a power play goal with McMichael in the box for tripping. However, upon further review by way of a Team Canada challenge, it was determined that the zone entry leading up to the goal was offside, negating the 4-1 marker. Dylan Cozens was later granted a penalty shot on a breakaway chance, but was unable to capitalize, with Askarov turning the Canadian captain aside.
“That was a good goal, and that could have made a big difference in the game,” Russian head coach Igor Larionov said of the disallowed goal. “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.”
Entering the third period, Canada led the shot battle 25-19, despite being outshot 12-9 by Russia in the middle stanza. Exiting the third period, Canada held on to a 35-27 differential, and added one goal – a Dylan Cozens empty-net marker – sending the Russians to the Bronze Medal Game.
Despite seeing Canada and Russia finish the tournament while occupying the first and second places 14 out of the past 25 runnings, 2021 will be different, as Canada will go for first place on Tuesday, while Russia will battle for third. Of Canada’s 360 minutes played in, the team has never been trailing, while only being ‘tied’ for 20:42. The Canadians have held a lead for an astounding 339:18.
Following the final buzzer, Devon Levi, who turned aside 27 shots for his third shutout of the tournament, was named Canada’s player of the game, while also being recognized as one of the team’s Top-3 Players, alongside Dylan Cozens and Bowen Byram (who split captaincy duties following Kirby Dach’s pre-tournament injury.
Tuesday’s Bronze Medal Game will be played on TSN at 5:00 PM central, while the Gold Medal Game will be featured shortly thereafter (roughly 8:30 PM central).