With just eleven minutes left in the third period and trailing 3–1 to Team Russia in the gold medal match, the Canadian Men's Junior Hockey Team looked in a heap of trouble.
It wasn't that they were playing badly.
In fact, they managed to kill off four straight penalties in the first period without giving up a single goal. Not easy! But as this even match went on, it was Russia's players that looked just that little bit stronger. When Russian forward Maxim Sorkin scored the 3–1 goal, it felt like the knockout punch had arrived — a sign that it just wasn't going to be Canada's day.
Instead, the Canadians dug deep, scoring three goals in a row to win the game — and the World Junior Hockey Championship. It was a nailbiter!
Responding when it mattered
A Canada-Russia hockey final is always a big deal. Since the tournament began in 1977, the two nations have dominated the event — this win was Canada's 18th gold medal, while Russia is close behind with 13.
But this year's final carried a little extra spice. During the round robin games of the tournament (these are the games that decide which countries advance to the quarterfinals) Russia flattened Canada 6–0. It was the worst loss a Canadian junior team had ever had at the tournament. The Canadian players promised to respond.
Which they did, even if it took a while for them to figure out Russia's excellent goalie Amir Miftakhov. Once they did though, Canada attacked in waves.
Third period onslaught
It started 34 seconds after Sorkin's goal. Canada's Calen Addison took a shot that bounced off a Russian defender, bounced again off teammate Connor McMichael's leg, and flew into the net. A bizarre bit of luck, but hey, 3–2!
Then two minutes later, team captain Barrett Hayton blasted a shot in on the power play to tie the game. Suddenly, it was tied 3–3 with eight minutes left and Canada was flying!
With everything on the line, both teams gave everything that they had until... this:
AKIL THOMAS. GO-AHEAD GOAL. HOW??? ?????? pic.twitter.com/qT1eq2Oxw3
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) January 5, 2020
What. A. Rush. 4–3 Canada with less than five minutes to go!
Just the beginning
It was the kind of game where it felt a bit unfair to have a winner and a loser because both teams were so great.
And this isn't the last that hockey fans will be seeing of many of these players. As juniors, many of them are either already drafted or will be drafted by an NHL team. Many suspect that Canadian forward Alexis Lafreniere will be the number one pick this year. In other words, the new Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. Did you see a player that you think could be your favourite team's star of the future?
The gold medal game is over, but the careers are just beginning!