Day: June 6, 2021

Canada wins “little miracle” gold

The Canadian players celebrate the gold medal

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Nick Paul scored at 6:26 of the three-on-three unlimited overtime to give Canada gold.

Only three teams have ever won World Championship gold after losing three games. The Czechs lost three in 1999 but two of those losses came in the playoff round when the format was best-of-two. Canada lost three in 1997, including one of the best-of-three finals, and Sweden lost three in 1987 when there were two tiers of round robin games.

No team has ever lost four games and won gold.

There were only two returning Canadians from the 2019 finals, captain Adam Henrique and defenceman Troy Stecher.

For the Finns, they had eight who won gold two years ago: goalie Jussi Olkinuora, captain Marko Anttila, as well as Miikka Koivisto, Oliwer Kaski, Niko Ojamaki, Atte Ohtamaa, Petteri Lindbohm, and Jere Sallinen.

Canada had a tough start, incurring 16 minutes of penalties in the opening period to none for Finland. Ten of those came on a 2 + 10 call to Justin Danforth in the early going. Although the Finns didn’t capitalize on that man advantage, they did on the second one to Nick Paul for high sticking.

Kaski took a point shot with Mikael Ruohomaa in front. Rather than tip the puck, Ruohomaa stopped it, spun and put the puck onto his forehand, and lifted the puck in the open side as he was falling. The penalty to Paul had expired one second earlier, but he wasn’t able to get back in play in time.

The Canadians took a third penalty but managed to kill that as well. But the toll wasn’t so much on the Finnish side of the scoreboard as it was that Canada wasn’t able to get any flow to its game, and the big line of Henrique-Brown-Andrew Mangiapane managed only a few shifts without testing Olkinuora from in close.

Maxime Comtois tied the game for Canada early in the second after the Finns took two consecutive penalties that gave Canada 12 seconds on five-on-three in the process. Comtois hit the post on the first man advantage, swiping quickly at a loose puck, only to see it miss the empty net and dribble off the iron.

Next shift, though, Comtois converted. Brown took a long shot that drifted off the crossbar, and this time Comtois didn’t miss on the rebound opportunity.

The Finns had another power play later in the period, but Kuemper made his best save of the game when he stoned Kontiola from point-blank range.

With four minutes left in the period, Canada scored again when Adam Henrique knocked in a rebound, but as has become the norm in the tournament the defending team immediately went to its iPad to check for an offside. Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen challenged the play, and sure enough the goal was called back because the entry into the zone was offside.

Canada almost went ahead early in the third on a flukey play. Olkinuora misplayed a shoot-in and the puck bounced off the back of the net and rolled to the side, but Brandon Pirri couldn’t poke the puck in before he was checked.

That miss proved costly. Seconds later, Petteri Lindbohm fired a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle through traffic that beat Kuemper over the glove at 5:27, giving the Finns their second lead of the game.

But Canada pressed and drew a power play of their own. And they converted. Brown got the puck to the goal where Comtois put the puck between his legs and Henrique poked the rebound in at 12:37, tying the game, 2-2. The rest of the period felt like overtime, but neither team could score before 60 minutes. That set the stage for Nick Paul’s heroics.

U.S. defeats Germany for bronze

Team USA celebrates with the medals after a 6-1 bronze medal victory over Germany at the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Riga, Latvia

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

Conor Garland led the way with a goal and two assists as the U.S. defeated Germany 6-1 in the bronze medal game of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on Sunday.

Garland, a 25-year-old winger from the Arizona Coyotes, tied Canada’s Connor Brown for the tournament points lead (13) prior to the gold medal game. Jason Robertson and Christian Wolanin added a goal and an assist apiece. Trevor Moore, Jack Drury, and Ryan Donato also scored, while Tage Thompson recorded three assists.

“It just proves how much character guys they really are,” said U.S. head coach Jack Capuano. “It was disappointing the other night to lose [to Canada], but we played a great team again here today. You saw the penalty-killing, the special teams today, that’s just who we are. Whatever it takes, the sacrifices, the brotherhood we talked about, coming together in this tournament and growing together as a group.”

The U.S. succeeded in winning its fourth bronze medal in the last eight World Championships (2013, 2015, 2018). The only two losses for coach Jack Capuano’s team in Riga were to the 2021 finalists. The U.S. fell 2-1 to Finland in its opener and 4-2 to Canada in the semi-finals.

“It was tough, but it was worth it,” said 36-year-old captain Brian Boyle, who represented his country for the first time at these Worlds. “Being a part of this team is going to be one of my fondest memories of playing. I’m really thankful that they let me come on and I’m really proud to be part of that group.”

German coach Toni Soderholm mixed things up in net by starting Felix Bruckmann over Matthias Niederberger, who carried the load at this tournament. Bruckmann’s two previous Riga appearances were in the 2-0 group-stage loss to the Americans and the opening 9-4 romp over Italy. Unfortunately, his teammates weren’t able to generate enough goals on Sunday.

“We’re all incredibly sad,” said German captain Moritz Muller. “In the dressing room, no eye stayed dry. We would have deserved it. We felt that our team was very special. The fans watching on TV felt how unique this group is. We’re thankful we could have experienced this and sad we have not been rewarded.”

For the U.S., starter Cal Petersen returned the day after taking the loss versus Canada in the semi-final. Shots favoured Germany 34-30.

Petersen hailed the leadership of Justin Abdelkader, who was limited to six games as captain due to a lower-body injury, and Boyle, who wore the “C” the rest of the way. Neither veteran played in the NHL this season, although Abdelkader enjoyed a championship run with Switzerland’s Zug, and helped out Capuano on the bench after being sidelined.

“These are two guys that have already proven a lot in their own careers,” Petersen said. “And they made the choice to come over here and leave their families and sit in a bubble with 20 other young kids that maybe didn’t fully realize or have the kind of experience that they did. For them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us and put everything into this tournament, showing us what it means to be a leader and a winner, I think, is awesome.”

It was a rough conclusion for the Germans. Although they struggled to score goals as these Worlds progressed, they showcased their character and skill in key wins over Canada (3-1) and Latvia (2-1). They shocked Switzerland with a 3-2 quarter-final shootout win, and delivered a gritty effort in two losses to defending champion Finland (both 2-1), including the semi-finals.

“It’s been an experience for my lifetime,” said Soderholm. “Ever since we came together for camp and landed here, we felt that something is possible. We had good character here and it was an honour to work with them.”

Under Soderholm, the Germans have improved from sixth place in 2019 to fourth place this year.

Germany’s last IIHF World Championship medal was silver, back in 1953. The Germans stunned the hockey world at the 2018 Olympics in Korea by capturing the silver medal with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Olympic Athletes from Russia.