Russia beats Canada for bronze at World Juniors

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TSN.ca Staff
1/5/2014 1:25:36 PM
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For the first time in more than 30 years, Canada officially has a medal drought at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Canada dropped the bronze medal game to Russia by a score of 2-1 on Sunday, marking the first time it has failed to win a medal in back-to-back tournaments since the Program of Excellence's inception in 1982.

Russia stormed out to an early 2-0 lead over Canada on Sunday thanks to first period goals from Mikhail Grigorenko and Eduard Gimatov. It would provide the basis for a lead Russia would never surrender.

Canada would get on the board mid-way through the third with defenceman Josh Morrissey giving the Canadian team some life, but it would not be enough as the Russians would beat Canada to claim bronze for a second straight year.

Andrei Vasilevski turned away 28 of the 29 shots Canada threw at him on Sunday, improving his all-time World Junior record to 11-4 over the course of three tournaments. He was named Russia's Player of the Game.

Aaron Ekblad was named Canada's Player of the Game.

Canadian goalkeeper Zach Fucale took over as starter after Canada's preliminary round loss to the Czech Republic and stopped 30 of the 32 shots he faced in the semifinal.

The Montreal Canadiens draft pick expressed disappointment with the result despite his strong play.

"This is absolutely not about me," he told TSN in a post-game interview. "This is just about the team winning and we came here for a reason and we didn't get it done."

Canada has now gone five tournaments without bringing home World Junior gold. Their last gold came in 2009 when they claimed their fifth consecutive tournament, winning on home ice in Ottawa.

The loss sets Canada up for a tough group at the 2015 World Juniors that will be hosted in Toronto and Montreal. With the fourth-place finish, Canada is set to once again be drawn with the United States. They will also be joined by defending gold medalists Finland as well as Slovakia and Germany.

"For guys coming back next year it's good motivation," said forward Curtis Lazar, who finished third in team scoring with three goals and four assists in seven games.

"It's Canada, you want to get back on top. It's a tough tournament to win, that's the bottom line," Lazar added.

This Canadian team has 11 players that would be eligible to play in next year's tournament, including Lazar. However, 17-year-olds Sam Reinhart and Aaron Ekblad are projected to go first and second in the 2014 NHL Draft and their availability for next year's team would be questionable.

It was a tough tournament for Canada, as the team surrendered the first goal in all but one of their games.

But the bronze medal game saw a better overall effort for Canada than the one they put forth in the semifinal loss to Finland.

"In this particular game you could make a case that Team Canada deserved a better fate but in the bigger picture of where they finished in the tournament I don't think you could say they deserved anything more than what they got, which is a fourth-place finish," TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie said.

"In a difficult game to play, they had more emotion, they had more commitment and more chances to score and generated a lot more than they did in the semifinals against Finland, where they generated only three shots in the third period," McKenzie added.

The tournament also saw head coach Brent Sutter's perfect World Junior record shattered after Canada lost its preliminary round game to the Czech Republic 5-4 in a shootout. Sutter had gone 6-0 and won gold in both his previous coaching tenures in the 2005 tournament in Vancouver and Kelowna and the 2006 tournament in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

McKenzie believes Canada's troubles may have less to do with Canada's on-ice personnel and more to do with the mental approach the team takes to the high-profile competition, especially the knockout games.

"It's more along the lines of [being] terrified to lose than [they] are determined to win," McKenzie observed of three years worth of semifinal defeats.

Fucale would also acknowledge the weight of high expectations after the defeat.

"Here it's all about results," said the 18-year-old. "Canada expects more, we expect more from ourselves and you know we didn't get it done."

Russian flag raised (Photo: IIHF-HHOF/Images on Ice)

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(Photo: IIHF-HHOF/Images on Ice)
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