Saturday, January 05, 2008

A gritty victory

Canada beat Sweden 3-2 in overtime to take home the World Junior Championships' gold medals. It was a solid performance from the juniors against the only team to beat them at these championships in their last 24 games. There were definitely worrisome moments, such as Sweden's tying goal with less than a minute to go (which brought back all the reasons I hate no-touch icing: in regular hockey, Matt Halischuck gets the puck Shaun Matthias shot down the ice and perhaps even scores an empty-netter to seal the victory, but under international rules, it's still icing even though there were no Swedes anywhere near the puck. For a while, it looked like the many posts and crossbars the Canadians hit might come back to haunt them, and Canadian fans with international hockey memories don't fancy shootouts in championships against Swedes (particularly when one of them is named Forsberg). However, in the end, it was Canada's determination and grit that won them the victory. They came up the hard way after the loss to Sweden in the opening round, beating a good Finnish team in the quarterfinals and topping the favoured Americans in the semis. This Canadian team had plenty of talent, and the NHL scouts were certainly watching (perhaps the stock of Drew Doughty and Steve Stamkos has gone up the most of the players in this coming year's draft). What mattered more, though, was their drive, intensity, and uncompromising will to win. As TSN's Bob McKenzie said, "This was not the overwhelming run through the table seen in North Dakota and to some degree in Vancouver. This was hard sledding all the way." A country was watching its youth represent us overseas, and they made Canada proud.

Related: nice takes from Alanah and James Mirtle.

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