By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com
Patient and calm, Canada scored the only three goals of the third period to break a 2-2 tie and claim their second gold medal in three years, defeating Germany, 5-2, in the final game of the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Samuel Blais made it 3-2 at 4:51 of the third, backhanding a rebound from in close, and Tyler Toffoli made it 4-2 on a 2-on-1, beating Mathias Niederberger five-hole for the insurance goal. Scott Laughton added an empty netter to seal the deal.
Blais’ goal, his second of the night and sixth of the tournament, was the result of a turnover by Maksymilian Szuber, who was stripped of the puck by Cody Glass behind the Germany goal. Glass tried a wraparound, and Blais took care of the rebound.
Toffoli’s goal was the result of another German error, this by Marcel Noebels, who moved into the slot in Canada’s end only to fan on a great scoring chance that might have tied the game. Instead, Toffoli claimed the lose puck and went up ice to score.
“It’s the team that wins, said assistant captain Milan Lucic, playing in his firstt World Championship. “We had a really good team that came together, and that’s why we’re champions. I always believed in this group. I think that was a big part of us winning the gold medal. Anytime Canada is in a tournament, we expect to win gold, Canadians expect us to win gold, so it’s nice to bring another championship home. The people of Canada really love and appreciate it.”
“I think we can be so proud of what we did here as Germans, after coming in here, losing the first three games,” said JJ Peterka. “And then with our backs to the wall, having a do-or-die game every game and coming together like that. Coming back late in the third against the U.S. just showed how much how much we wanted it. And today we wanted to [do it again], but sometimes it doesn’t happen. We were just so close. We were in the game in the third period. I think at the end, little mistakes kind of like cost us the game. Canada is too good. They took advantage of that and scored two goals.”
Canada has now been in 13 of the last 21 gold-medal games, winning seven, and has earned a medal in each of the last four years (two gold, two silver). In all, this is gold number 22 in the stand-alone World Championship history.
Today’s win was espeically notable for 18-year-old Adam Fantilli, who becomes just the second Canadian and 11th player to win World Junior gold and World Championship gold in the same season.
For Germany, the loss is a bitter pill to swallow, but the silver medal is their first at the World Championship since 1953 (when only three teams competed). In all, Germany has now won three silver medals (1930, 1953, 2023) and one bronze (1934), so this year’s achievement is nothing short of extraordinary.
“It’s something I can’t really describe right now,” said MacKenzie Weegar, the tournament’s leading scorer among defenders. “I’m just trying to take it all in at the moment. But right from training camp in Budapest, to Riga, to here it’s just been a really surreal experience and it’s all worth it with a gold medal around my neck. There were lots of bumps. Slovakia in OT, we lost to the Swiss, we lost to Norway. We had to come together and learn as a team. We stuck with it, we learned from our mistakes and we came out on top.”
Germany had the better start right from the opening faceoff, showing more interested in getting the puck deep and chasing it down. Canada looked tentative and unsure, and didn’t look particularly intent in playing in the offensive end. Slowly but surely, though, the game opened, and Germany struck first.
Moritz Seider fired a long pass to JJ Peterka at the Canada blue line. He brought the puck under control and went in alone, snapping a shot under the glove on Samuel Montembeault at 7:44 to make it 1-0. Canada coach Andre Tourigny’s staff thought the play might have been offside and requested a coach’s challenge, thinking Peterka’s skates were inside the blue line as he tried to control the puck, which was right on the line. The video review favoured Germany, and Canada had to play a man down as well.
They weathered that storm and tied the game soon after off the rush. Jake Neighours made a pass in centre ice that hit a skate and bounced fortuitously to Peyton Krebs, and he went in on a 2-on-1 with Blais, who wired a shot high over Niederberger’s shoulder after getting the perfect feed from Krebs at 10:47.
Play turned tepid as the second period began as teams didn’t want to open up and leave themselves vulnerable. It became apparent this was going to be a low-scoring game, and goals would be hard to come by. Germany took the lead at 13:47 on a weird play. They tried to clear the puck in deep from centre but it hit a player at the blue line, then hit another man in front after an errant pass. But then it landed on the stick of Daniel Fischbuch, and he beat Montembeault before anyone knew what had happened.
But as in the first, Canada didn’t panic and tied the score less than four minutes later, on the power play. It was Krebs again who was the set-up man, this time finding Lawson Crouse in front, inside Germany’s defensive box. Crouse just redirected Krebs’s pass past Niederberger’s glove at 17:28.
In the third, it was all Canada, looking poised and confident, their experience in pressure games evident. It seemed just a matter of time before they would go ahead, and Blais provided the gold-medal-winning goal in due course.
Even at the end, when coach Harold Kreis pulled Niederberger for a sixth skater with 3:21 to play, Canada never looked like they would surrender the lead, and at 18:06 Laughton hit the empty net to start Canada’s celebrations early.
“I think it was an even fight, and if we learn from our mistakes, I think we’ll be in a good position in the upcoming years,” said Moritz Seider, the team’s young star on the blue line. “We haven’t done this in 70 years, so nobody can take that away from us. We made history today. The team made history, and I’m really proud of every one of us.”