Today, Matt Halischuk did something that most Canadian hockey players can only dream of doing.
Halischuk scored the game winning goal for Team Canada to win the gold medal against Sweden at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Champions, doing it in overtime.
The five-foot-11-inch Halischuk was in the right spot at the right time after his linemate Shawn Matthias took advantage of a Swedish turnover by taking the puck to the net where the loose puck ended up on the stick of Canada’s newest hero, and he whacked it through the pads of Swedish goalie Jhonas Enroth.
In all the WJHC, this game ranks up there as one of the greatest games in this tournament’s history. Not only was it a game between the two best teams in this tournament, not only did it feature some of the game’s greatest young talent in players like Steve Stamkos, John Tavares and Sweden’s Viktor Hedman, but the game itself was a great hockey game.
In a winner-take-all game, it went into overtime, both teams faced tremendous adversity at various times in the game, there was great goaltending and big hits. It was a great example of how the game of hockey is meant to be played. Not this offensive 20-goal games that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman envisions. It was a 3-2, fast-paced, dramatic, on-the-edge-of-your-seat classic and both teams should be given a whole ton of credit for putting on the show they did.
Give Sweden credit. Going into this tournament, many considered it to be just a three horse race. Canada, Russia and the U.S.A. were considered gold medal contenders, while Sweden was considered to maybe contend for the bronze medal.
This was not a prototypical Swedish team. Led by Patrik Berglund and back-stopped by Enroth, the Swedes gave Canada everything they could handle and then some in both the 4-3 Canada loss in the round robin and again today in the championship game.
The adversity that the Swedes faced was that they had to play Canada and that they allowed Team Canada to outplay them for two periods and as a result, trailed 2-0 after 40 minutes. Sweden marched right through one of those two obstacles and tied the game at two-apiece with just 38 seconds remaining in regulation. The blue and yellow didn’t win the game, so the adversity they had to overcome against playing Team Canada didn’t happen but they gave it their absolute best shot and have nothing to hang their head on.
Congrats have to go out to Sweden who worked hard for everything they got in this tournament, and as a result, captured their first medal in the World Juniors since 1996.
Now onto Team Canada. If you’re a Canadian hockey fan, you have to be extremely proud of the effort that boys in red and white put forth throughout this tournament.
This year’s team wasn’t the monster that it had been in North Dakota or Vancouver in terms of offence, but each and every player came to work every game and this team deserves full marks for their gold medal.
There were glitches along the way, including another third period collapse against the Swedes, but they overcame that adversity and were able to win in overtime. Steve Mason was named tournament MVP and the tournament’s top goalie after he back-stopped Canada to four straight wins, including Finland in the quarter-final, the U.S.A. in the semi’s and today against Sweden.
Mason can’t be faulted for the goals he allowed today. The powerplay goal that Sweden scored to draw within one goal early in the third period was a nifty pass from the behind the net after Canada lost the defensive zone face off.
Brad Marchand was named the player of the game for Canada after he knotched his third goal in three games to open the scoring for Canada and added one assist on Claude Giroux’s second goal of the tournament on the powerplay that made it 2-0 for Canada in the first period. Marchand stepped up his game in this tournament after giving up the puck that led to Sweden’s game-winning goal in the round robin against Team Canada.
Canada’s loss to Sweden in the round robin was the turning point for this team in this tournament. Not only did the loss to the Swedes end the longest winning streak in WJHC history, but it showed that Canada was not invincible and should never take any of their opponents for granted.
After all was said and done, you couldn’t help but get chills up your back when you watched the Team Canada celebration after they had won the game in overtime. Not only were the players enjoying themselves, but the response from the thousands of Canadian fans that made the trip to the Czech Republic was incredible.
Upon watching the celebrations that took place following the game, you get a real sense of just how passionate the fans and the players truly are about the game of hockey in Canada. It is our passion for this game that separates us from every other hockey nation and it was a big reason as to why Canada managed to overcome the adversity in this tournament on their way to winning gold.
Filed under: Cam T, NHL Tagged: | Brad Marchand, Claude Giroux, Gary Bettman, Hockey Canada, Jhonas Enroth, John Tavares, Matt Halischuk, NHL, Patrik Berglund, Shawn Matthias, Steve Mason, Steve Stamkos, Sweden, Team Canada, Viktor Hedman