On the final day of the 2015 World Junior Championships, the medals will be handed out to the deserving teams. It’s been a very interesting tournament so far to say the least, with some shocking upsets and some historic moments. Battling for the gold medal this year is Canada and Russia, after they both knocked out their opponents in the semi-finals. A lot of things impact the outcome of each game, but it is amplified when a gold medal is on the line.
What’s On the Line:
For Canada, it’s a chance to restore themselves as the best in this tournament. They won five straight gold medals over the span of 2005-2009. Since then, they’ve been steadily declining. Two silvers, a bronze and two fourth place finishes in the five years since their last gold medal. Now, they’ve gotten to the Gold Medal Game for the first time in four years, and have the rare opportunity to accomplish the feat in front of their home crowd in Toronto. It’s also a chance to redeem themselves for their last gold medal matchup with the Russians, where they led 3-0 in the third before allowing five unanswered goals as Russia captured the gold.
For Russia, it will be much of the same reasons as for Canada. Caught in a seemingly declining trend the last four years, Russia is looking to reestablish itself as one of the best teams year in, year out. Projected to not even make the semi-finals this year, they have already proved critics wrong and will look to continue doing so today. Of course, there isn’t much motivation needed playing against Canada, ever. These countries have a rich hockey history and are guaranteed to produce a memorable game each time they take the ice together.
How They Got Here:
Canada was motivated to have a come back tournament on their own soil this year, after a few years straight of disappointment. They’ve done just that so far, compiling a total record of 6-0-0-0 with a ridiculous 33 goals for and just 5 goals against. In the round robin they swept their division in convincing fashion, outplaying their opponent each game. In the quarter final, they matched up against the miracle Danes, fresh off their first win in tournament history. However, Canada did not care. They blew out Denmark 8-0 and moved on. In the semis, Canada faced the underdog Slovaks who had improved with each game of the tournament. Once again, the Canadians did not care. The game remained close after two, thanks to outstanding play from Denis Godla, but Canada ousted them 5-1 in the end.
Russia was not expected to have a great year at the World Junior’s this year, with a much less talented than usual squad. They stumbled their way through the round robin, putting up a somewhat lousy 1-1-0-2 record to take third place in their division. In the medal round, they faced a very difficult path. First, they upset the strong American team by a score of 3-2. They didn’t necessarily play a great game, but Shestyorkin played unbelievably, stopping 39 of 41 shots to get the win. In the semis, they upset the Swedes by a score of 5-1. In this case, the Swedes noticeably didn’t play to the best of their ability and Russia capitalized on that to move on to the gold medal game and assure a medal for the fifth straight year.
How Canada Wins:
They remain dominant in all zones and continue to play their style of game. At least one of their top two lines have been amazing in each game so far, and that’s what they’ll need again tonight. If their defence and goaltending can remain as solid as they’ve been all tournament long, then Canada should have it’s first gold medal in six years.
How Russia Wins:
They play their best all around game so far this year. They’ll need their top offensive and defensive forces to be at their best to compete. They also need to limit the special teams, something Canada’s had going the entire tournament. Shestyorkin will have to play the game of his life.
Canada’s depth will prove to be far too much for Russia to handle. It will be Canada’s biggest test and they will struggle for periods of time. Shestyorkin won’t play as well as Godla did yesterday. The special teams will prove overrated, with Russia picking up the only power play goal. Canada outshoots Russia 33-26.
Canada Wins Gold, 4-2.
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Contributor for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Prospects. Scout with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. For questions, concerns, or comments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @SlawsonTHW.