Canadians survive tough, chaotic test.
01.01.2009. Cox, Damien. Toronto Star.

After almost six days of mostly non-competitive hockey and lopsided scores at this year's world junior championship, it took a head-on collision between Canada and the U.S. in the final hours of 2008 to inject some life and passion into the event.

Canada won the New Year's Eve bash 7-4, although that final score was padded with two empty-netters in the final moments that followed 59 minutes of hotly contested hockey. In all, it was an entertaining, exuberant contest filled with errors and slightly out-of-control teenagers, yes, but also some roller-coaster moments, goals and more goals and a shinny stage that oozed with bad blood from the outset.

"It wasn't artistic but it was full of emotion," Canadian head coach Pat Quinn said. "It must have been a fun game to watch."

It was a match before a world junior record crowd of 20,223 that took off like a runaway train from the opening puck drop and largely defied analysis for its sheer chaotic nature. "I'm a veteran and I had butterflies going," Quinn said of the raucous sellout crowd. "I can't imagine how the kids felt."

Both coaches will see all kinds of mistakes and reckless play when they analyze the tapes and U.S. coach Ron Rolston bitterly complained about "severely inadequate" refereeing by a Russian and a Finn that included what he believed was an illegal Canadian goal early in the second created by a scoreclock that started late and a Team Canada player released from the penalty box too early.

There was also some ugliness, including a clash during a celebratory Canadian march in front of the U.S. bench after a goal by John Tavares that left two players, Canada's Chris DiDomenico and American forward James van Riemsdyk, lying on the ice after a messy sequence that would have required a Zapruder-like, frame-by-frame interpretation to truly understand.

Neither coach wanted to even try, probably understanding that their players were as culpable as those on the other team and preferring to avoid a close examination of the incident.

But here's what mattered most. Faced with an early 3-0 deficit and potential embarrassment before an awful lot of excited people, this Canadian junior squad didn't fold or curl up and die in the moment.

Rather, it fought back, and it fought back with the same extraordinarily high level of skill it has shown since it was put together.

There were stars - Tavares with the hat trick, smooth-skating P.K. Subban - and there were goats - the benched Stefan Della Rovere, erratic captain Thomas Hickey - but for the most part there was a Canadian team that survived a very tough test.

Subban was one of the few who seemed to keep his head during a spectacularly emotional first period.

"This was one of those nights you dream about," said Subban, who grew up at Hwy. 427 and Rexdale Blvd. "I can't say I dreamt about falling behind 3-0, but I dreamt about playing in front of 20,000 people and playing with the best players in Canada.

"When that moment comes, you've just got to make the best of it and that's what I tried to do."

Canada held the big U.S. line of Jordan Schroeder, van Riemsdyk and Colin Wilson off the scoresheet, although it required at least two sensational saves from Dustin Tokarski to get that job done after the Canadian goalie refused to let three early goals rattle him.

"I learned from what (Tokarski) did tonight," Subban said.

Of concern to Team Canada, meanwhile, is an ankle injury suffered in the third by winger Zach Boychuk, one of the few returnees this year. Boychuk came back to play, but was limping noticeably.

Up next will be the Russians or Czechs, but at least Canada knows it has finally been tested under heavy fire.

A shot at a fifth consecutive gold medal in this tournament now lies one more victory away. 

1 Канада 6 5 1 0 0 46-12 17
2 Швеция 6 5 0 0 1 27-11 15
3 Россия 7 5 0 1 1 32-18 16
4 Словакия 7 2 1 0 4 22-28 8
5 США 6 3 1 0 2 34-19 11
6 Чехия 6 2 0 1 3 23-22 7
Подгруппа А
Канада, США, Чехия, Германия, Казахстан
Подгруппа В
Швеция, Финляндия, Россия, Словакия, Латвия
За 7-10 места
Финляндия, Латвия, Германия, Казахстан

1/4 финала
США - Словакия
Россия - Чехия

1/2 финала
Швеция - Словакия
Канада - Россия

США - Чехия
Россия - Словакия
Канада - Швеция
Первая страничка турнира
Молодежные чемпионаты мира (до 20 лет) 2009 года.
Первая страничка
Дивизион I. Группа А
Дивизион I. Группа B
Дивизион II. Группа А
Дивизион II. Группа B