They say it’s not about how you start, but rather how you finish. On Sunday afternoon, the Canadian representation at the IIHF World Championship in Latvia proved that age-old sentiment to once again come true with a 3-2 overtime victory over Finland in the Gold Medal Game, for its 27th first-place finish all-time.
Making it all the way to the tournament’s final scheduled contest is an incredible statistic on its own, considering Canada was on the verge of missing the quarterfinal for the first time in tournament history.
The squad labelled as Canada’s ‘F’ team rallied from a despicable 0-3 start, stringing together three-straight victories to even out its record. Team Canada then lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Finns, before moving on to face the Russian Olympic Committee in the quarterfinal, where it won a back-and-forth game in overtime off a fantastic move by Troy Stecher.
This set up a ‘dream matchup’ with the United States in the semifinal, to which the Canadians came out to play, having picked up points in five-straight heading into the North American showdown. Although losing 5-1 to USA at the start of the tournament, Canada bounced back and earned a 4-2 victory, early Saturday morning, teeing up a Gold Medal Game with Finland at Noon on Sunday in a rematch from the 2019 event.
Having not earned a gold medal since the 2016 running of the Worlds, Canada battled the reigning champ in an exhilarating, back-and-forth final, to which overtime was required. At 6:26 of the extra period of three-on-three, the Canadians capitalized on a two-on-one up ice with two Ottawa Senators players sealing the deal on the improbable gold medal for Team Canada.
CANADA WINS THE GOLD MEDAL! 🥇 pic.twitter.com/nv8L3ZTpNY
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 6, 2021
Finishing the tournament atop the point-scoring leaderboard, Connor Brown fitting got his third assist of the game on the game-winner, bumping up his totals to two goals and 14 assists for 16 points in just 10 tournament games. Andrew Mangiapane – who joined the team after missing the first three games – won the tournament MVP award with his seven goals and 11 points in seven games.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) June 6, 2021
Taking the first three penalties of the game, Canada gave up the opening goal to Finland’s Mikael Ruohomaa just 8:57 into the contest. The Canadians then got one back of a power play opportunity of their own early in the second period off the stick of Maxime Comtois. The Finns pulled ahead with 15 minutes to play in the third period before Canadian captain Adam Henrique tied it up with 7:23 to go.
Finland actually outshot Canada 31-26 in the game, despite losing in the extra frame. Darcy Kuemper turned aside 29 pucks in the victory, besting the tournament’s top goaltender Jussi Olkinurra (23 saves on 26 shots).
Only on three occasions have teams won the World Championship after losing three games in the tournament – and each of the prior situations involved different qualifying styles. Canada is the only team to lose its first three games and win the gold medal.
With the gold medal victory, Winnipeg Jets’ 2020 first round draft pick Cole Perfetti capped off a sensational year that saw him also earn a silver medal at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship in the Edmonton bubble, alongside teammate and Brandon Wheat Kings’ captain Braden Schneider. This will certainly be a year that neither of those two youngsters soon forget.