I personally enjoy the games for the sheer talent and passion these young players have. It's a very exciting time in their budding hockey careers. Some players have been drafted to the NHL, while others are still waiting to hit 18 years old(or 17 if born at certain times of the year). Teams like Canada, Russia and the USA are stacked knee deep with young NHL talent, while other countries such as Slovakia and Denmark who aren't as deep with NHL prospects are still able to give the top teams a run for their money.
This years tournament saw 10 countries competing. Group A consisted of Canada, USA, Slovakia, Finland and Germany. Group B saw Sweden, Czech Republic, Russia, Denmark and Switzerland battle it out. After five days of the preliminary round (or round robin) it was down to the quarter finals, followed by the semifinals which led to a bronze medal game between Sweden and Slovakia and the nail biting gold medal game between longtime arch rivals Russia and Canada.
The puck dropped late in the afternoon for Sweden and Slovakia. Sweden was favored to win, but following traditional World Junior fashion this fairytale had a bit of a twist. It was tied 2-2 at the end of the 1st period, followed by a scoreless 2nd period which led the way for a dramatic finish! The Slovaks were able to find their glass slipper to complete the Cinderella upset and take the bronze! This was the 2nd time Slovakia has taken a medal at the tournament after they won their 1st bronze in 1999 also against Sweden! I am sure it was a very exciting time for the country. For the 1st time ever the game was broadcast on national TV in Slovakia.
The world juniors officially began in 1977 with Slovakia joining the rush in 1998-1999. That year the tournament was held in Winnipeg, Canada. The Slovaks arrived in the great white north with mismatching gear and literally the only common thread joining the team was their excitement for being part of the World Juniors. It didn't take long for the people of Winnipeg to fall in love with the them and they actually went out and bought the team matching gear! It seems only fitting the Slovaks win bronze again on Canadian soil.
It only took 23 seconds for Canada's Anthony Duclair to score in the first period and make it 1-0. Just over two minutes later Nick Paul scored to make it 2-0. Half way through the period, Russia's Dmitir Yudin scored to get Russia within one. The 2nd period saw 6 goals scored while each team scored a natural hat trick shall we say. Canada scored 3 goals in a row: Connor McDavid scored at 5:08, Max Domi scored at 7:22 and Sam Reinhart scored at 12:20. Three goals in 7 minutes and Canada up 5-1. Leave to the Russians to blow up on the power play…….Ivan Barbashev scored for Russia at 14:21, Sergei Tolchinski scored 33 seconds later to make it 5-3, followed by Nikolai Goldobin's goal at 17:37. Three goals in 3 minutes meant Russia was only down by one goal to end the 2nd period.
It was a nailbiter of a 3rd for any Russian or Canadian hockey fan. You could say Russian netminders Igor Shestyorkin and Ilya Sorokin along with Canadian netminder Zach Fucale kept their teams in the game. In short there was no tying goal, no insurance goal, only the game winning goal scored by none other than North Vancouver's Sam Reinhart ! . I can't think of a better way to win the game. Congrats Team Canada! Once again you have done your country proud!