Brennan Othmann and Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers scored early and late in the second period to break a 2-2 tie and send Canada on its way to a 5-3 gold-medal victory over Russia at the 2021 Ice Hockey Under-18 Championship in Frisco, Tex., on Thursday (May 6).
The win gives Canada gold for the first time at the U18 since 2013, when the Canadians beat Russia 8-0. That 2013 team was coached by Kamloops’ own Don Hay and featured a young Connor McDavid in the roster.
In Texas this year, Connor Bedard, at 15 years of age, became the youngest gold medallist in U18 history. He had a goal and assist in the gold medal game, while captain Shane Wright led the way with two goals and an assist. Matvei Michkov had a goal and two asissts for Russia and led all scorers with 16 points in the tournament.
Canada fought back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the first to make it a 2-2 tie after 20 minutes before turning on the jets in the middle 20 minutes. It was the first time Canada trailed all tournament, and the team handled the adversity with patience and calm.
"We scored the first goal every previous game, which is a great thing because you have a pretty good chance of winning the game," coach Dave Barr said. "But we talked about it during the first intermission, about being behind and playing from behind, that we don't change our game. It's going to happen against a good team. We just did what we had to do to work our way back in the game."
In the end, Canada won all seven games in regulation, scoring 51 goals and surrending only 12. But there was a moment early in the event when Barr felt things changed and the team learned how to become a champion.
"We were ahead 2-0 against the Swedes in our first game and we made a dumb play," Barr recalled. "They went down the ice, and our goalie made a great save. And that to me was one of those times —we told the players, we don't need to make plays like this in moments like this. I think we learned from that, that we didn't need to force plays to create offence."
"I'm proud of the way my team played tonight," Russian coach Albert Leshyov said. "They played with Russian character. We played for our country. It was a good game, and I am proud of the way they played. Most certainly we started to lose our focus a bit in the second period, and that changed the way we played."
But perhaps the keys to victory were the play of goalie Ben Gaudreau and the team's penalty killers. Canada was short-handed five times to three for Russia, but the number-one PK in the tournament allowed only one goal.
Shots were 34-34, but Gaudreau made his saves when it mattered most while at the other end Sergei Ivanov was uneven at best.