There is nothing conventional about Canada’s 21st gold medal victory at the IIHF World Championships. In the 2021 tournament, Team Canada became the first team in tournament history to lose four games and win gold. Many wrote them off, yet the team continued to fight. Here are the three main factors that led to Canada’s success this year.
Stecher and Power Create Unluckily Dream Pair
Troy Stecher and Owen Power were dominant in the playoff round, leading the team in ice time in every game. They jumped in offensively, were strong in their own zone and were not afraid to play physically. They were the backbone of the Canadian defence and propelled the team to victory.
Power, who is expected to be the first-overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft, looked like a seasoned vet throughout the tournament. He made few mistakes and only took two penalties in 10 games. He also led Canada in defensive scoring with three points, impressive for his first World Championships.
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Then you have Stecher, who improved with every game. He was on the ice for all three of Canada’s game-winning goals in the playoff round and, as the veteran presence on that pairing, helped Power to settled down. The two developed solid chemistry, and Team Canada would surely be happy to see them reunited in the future.
Kuemper Stands on His Head
He may have struggled early in the tournament, but Darcy Kuemper was a huge factor in Canada’s success. He allowed five goals in three playoff games against two of the top three scoring teams in the tournament. His crowning moment was against Team USA when he stopped 36 of 38 shots, including 15 saves in the first period and assisted on the game-winning goal. The Arizona Coyotes goaltender stepped up when it counted, and in three playoff games, he faced 94 shots and stopped 89 of them for a .947% save percentage.
Some argued that Canada should have gone with Adin Hill after Kuemper’s first few outings, but he proved to be the right choice. He controlled the game by giving up few rebounds, freezing the puck when his team was under pressure and being aggressive in the net. It was a fantastic performance worthy of a gold medal.
Henrique, Brown and Mangiapane Put the Team on Their Back
Adam Henrique, Connor Brown and Andrew Mangiapane’s line was the main reason Canada had success at this tournament. Henrique finished fourth in tournament scoring with 11 points, Brown set a new Canadian record with 14 assists, and Mangiapane tied for the tournament lead with seven goals. They scored 15 of Canada’s 28 goals, were strong defensively and contributed on special teams.
Special teams played a big part in Team Canada’s gold medal win, and these three were outstanding. The penalty kill, led by Henrique, only allowed two goals in the tournament, and the power play, which featured all of them, converted three times in the playoff round, including twice in the gold-medal game. Without them, Canada would not have made the playoff round. The big three provided everything Canada needed, and Mangiapane was named MVP of the tournament.
A Tournament Like No Other
The 2021 World Championship was unique. Without the usual level of NHL talent, there were constant upsets and nail-biting finishes. Team Canada only reached the playoff round after Latvia could not force overtime versus Germany in the final game of the tournament, and in the end, Canada fought hard and persevered. This may not have been the best team Canada has ever iced, but they earned their gold medal moment.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.