Canada versus Russia. One thing on the line: gold. The 2015 World Junior Championships are coming to a close tonight in Toronto, Canada, marking a long-awaited chance at gold for both countries. For Canada, they haven’t won gold since 2009 against the Swedes (beating Russia to get to the finals), while the Russians last spoiled Canada’s chances with a come from behind victory in the third period of the 2011 finals. The two teams have a rich history in the tournament, and with both teams having great tournaments in 2015, hockey fans around the world are excited to see what the next important chapter of this tournament will be. Before that all happens, take a look at the five greatest World Junior moments involving Canada and Russia.
5. Chubarev Shoots for Gold, 1999: With Winnipeg as hosts, the 1999 World Junior tournament set a tournament record attendance number of 170,000 throughout the event, proving that hosting the tournament in a place where it matters to people will sell big. Canada had done a great job on the ice too, winning 12-2 against Kazakhstan and 6-1 against Sweden to earn a birth in the finals against their hated rivals from Russia. The Russians had just as strong of a tournament, taking down Slovakia and Finland to grab their spot in the championship game. Many expected the game to a close affair, but when the shots were 40-18 in Russia’s favour, you would expect it to be a blowout. However, Roberto Luongo put on a goaltending performance for the ages, keeping the game close at 2-2 heading into the overtime. In the extra frame, Anton Chubarev, who scored earlier in the game, beat Luongo in sudden death to grab the victory and the gold medal. It was the first championship for the Russians since their title back in 1992 when they were known as the Commonwealth of Independent States.
4. Canada’s Legendary Run, 2005: As you likely have heard about 50 times by TSN this year, the 2005 Canadian World Junior team could be considered the greatest of all time. An NHL lockout left Canada with some high quality players such as Mike Richards, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Shea Weber and Patrice Bergeron, a team that saw a perfect, undefeated run. The team had one final task to take care of in the finals, defeating Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and the Russians for a chance at gold. usually, a team with names like that should be an extreme challenge for the championship, but a 6-1 decision in the final proved to be one of the more lopsided finishes to a World Junior final game. The game also marked the first big meeting between future NHL superstars Crosby and Ovechkin, but in like most situations so far in the NHL, Crosby was able to have the last laugh and the more elusive medal at the end.
3. Canadian Collapse, 2011: While some of the moments on this list may result in great memories for Canadians, this one will act as the complete opposite. Everything was going right for Canada back in 2011. The team was scoring, the goaltending had kept them in it until the finals and the team simply was going to be a tough one to beat. The Russians, however, had a knack during the tournament to come back late in the game, securing two late game comebacks against Sweden and Finland to reach the finals. Canada had gold set in their sights in the final contest, leading 3-0 going into the third period. Unfortunately for them, Canada tried to sit on the lead for too long, only to see the Russians score five straight times to win. To lose in front of so many nearby fans in Buffalo was tough, but the fact that their lead looked to be safe heading into the game, only to blow it, had to be one of the toughest moments for Canadian hockey in recent years.
2. Punch-up in Piestany, 1987: Fighting is very much not allowed in international hockey competition, so it’s safe to say the Punch-up in Piestany in 1987 was just a little extreme. Following a minute of silence for the four Swift Current Broncos players who were killed just days earlier in a team bus crash, the teams got a little feisty, engaging in a couple of small scrums after whistles. Tensions finally boiled over when Sergei Shesterikov ran into Everett Sanipass near the end of the second period, resulting in a scrap between the two players. Seconds later, Pavel Kostichkin went after Canada’s Theo Fleury, delivering a two-hand slash to the former Calgary Flames star. That’s when everything just fell apart, with both teams releasing their players on to the ice in a full on, bench-clearing brawl that had to be broken up by Czechoslovakian soldiers following a lengthy battle. Both teams were suspended from the rest of the tournament, but Canada followed that up with tournament gold in 1988, beating, you guessed it, the Soviets.
1. Eberle the Magician, 2009: When you talk to Canadians about their favourite hockey moment, Eberle’s game-tying goal on Vadim Zhelobnyuk forced overtime during the must-win 2009 semi-finals, scoring with just 5.4 seconds to go in regulation. Defenseman Ryan Ellis kept the puck from just going over the line with time winding down and sent it to John Tavares. Tavares then sent a backhand towards the net, but a Russian defender was able to get down low and block the shot form hitting the net. Unfortunately for the defenseman, the effort went to waste as Eberle grabbed the loose puck, deked Zhelobnyuk in front of the crease and slid it home for one of the most magical goals in Canadian hockey history. The goal meant the game would head to overtime, and just to finish the incredible story off, Eberle was able to score the shootout winner to send Canada to the finals, where they would take down the Swedes in a 5-1 smack down in front of a full house in Ottawa. Whether or not Eberle will ever be able to do anything in Ottawa, he will always be remembered for being one of the greatest World Junior performers of all time, thanks to his ability to score whenever his team was in a close situation.
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