Andy Potts Andy Potts
exclusive for khl.ru
Canada is the 2021 IIHF World Championship after defeating Finland in overtime in Sunday’s gold medal game in Riga. Twice behind in the game, the Canadians won it thanks to Nick Paul’s goal after six minutes of the extras, avenging its loss to the same opponent in 2019. Earlier in the day, the USA took bronze with a 6-1 victory over Germany.

Finns miss out in overtime

Finland 2 Canada 3 OT (1-0, 0-1, 1-1, 0-1)

Canada completed a huge recovery after losing its first three games to win gold with a comeback success against Finland. The gold-medal game was almost a microcosm of the tournament for Canada, which struggled early in the play but twice came from behind to force overtime before Nick Paul grabbed the overtime winner.

It’s Canada’s 27th gold at the Worlds, tying with the Russian and Soviet record. The two nations are well ahead of the 12 wins compiled by Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.

Finland’s captain, Marko Anttila, summed up the disappointment for his team. “It’s a one-goal game,” said the Jokerit forward. “There were a lot of those in this tournament and I think we lost the wrong one.”

“Of course it hurts but I’m proud of this team. We played well and we were pretty close to winning something, but that’s hockey.”

For Canada, though, captain Adam Henrique was jubilant after silencing the critics. I’m sure a lot of people counted this team out at the start of the tournament but we kept believing in ourselves and we stuck it out right to the end.”

“From getting our feet wet we were down 0-3 and I think as a group we learned how we had to play. The key to the tournament was getting better every day, sticking with it and for sure we needed some help, but we made the most of what we got.”

Canada’s golden roster included Justin Danforth, who played the season with Vityaz in the KHL. He contributed a goal in the semi-final victory over team USA.

Mikael Ruohomaa gave Finland a first-period lead with a goal scored right after a contentious power play. The Canadians were unhappy that Nick Paul sat for high-sticking after a collision with Marko Anttila, and that anger was intensified after the Sibir man found space beyond the defense to convert a feed from Gagarin Cup-winner Oliwer Kaski just as Paul returned to the ice.

However, Finland’s impressive defense was breached early in the second session with another power play effort. Maxime Comtois, who already fired one against the post, was on the spot as Connor Brown fired in another effort that rattled the frame of the goal. The Canadian forward showed good presence of mind to get his stick on a bouncing puck and stuff it home for his fourth of the tournament while Brown’s assist took him out in front in the tournament scoring race.

The Finns were close to regaining the lead when Petri Kontiola exchanged passes with Iiro Pakarinen but after getting a shooting chance between the hash marks was unable to get the elevation required to beat Darcy Kuemper in the Canadian net.

Canada thought it had the lead for the first time on 36:01 when Adam Henrique got the puck past Olkinuora. However, Finland challenged the play and had the effort whistled off on an offside call as Owen Power crossed the blue line just before Brown brought the puck into Finnish territory.

In the third, Canada’s Brandon Pirri was agonizingly close to grabbing the go-ahead goal after Olkinuora lost track of the puck behind the net. As the disc bounced out in front, Atte Ohtamaa got back to prevent Pirri from cashing in the simplest of tap-ins.

Then, at the other end, one of Jokerit’s new signings grabbed a vital — and unexpected — goal. Petteri Lindbohm is better known as a stay-at-home D-man, but when Canada’s Michael Bunting got pulled out of position, he was left wide open and fired through a screen to beat Kuemper and make it 2-1.

With less than 15 minutes to play, discipline was the watchword for Finland. But Ruohomaa misheard, and took a minor for tripping Brown. And that handed Canada a lifeline that Henrique grabbed when he stuffed home a no-look feed across the crease from Comtois to claim a second power play goal of the night and tie the game.

That took us to overtime and, for the first time in IIHF history, there would be no shoot-out. Instead, the teams would play 3-on-3 until a goal was scored. It took 6:26 of the extras for Canada to get the winner. The play started with a face-off at the Canadian end but the puck went to Nick Paul. He advanced with his Ottawa team-mate Brown in support, exchanged passes with the tournament’s leading scorer and wrapped it up with a tap-in past the stranded Olkinuora. Thus, Canada became the first nation to win the World Championship after dropping its first three games and took its first gold since winning in Moscow in 2016.

That was a bitter blow for Finland, but head coach Jukka Jalonen, familiar to KHL fans from his time with SKA and Jokerit, was still proud of his players.

“We played very well all the tournament, we didn’t lose any game in regulation time and we were very committed,” he said. “The players fought their hearts out like they did today and I can’t do anything else but to praise the guys.”

His opposite number, Gerard Gallant praised his team’s resilience. “Those guys never quit,” he said. “It was a tough, tough start for us but to see them battle back, so many one-goal games and overtime tonight. I’m proud of our group.”

USA takes bronze

USA 6 Germany 1 (1-0, 4-0, 1-1)

Team USA produced a second-period surge to secure bronze for the fourth time in eight years, while Germany remains without a World Championship medal since 1953.

The Germans had a dream start, with a double minor penalty on America’s Jason Robertson after just 58 seconds. However, the chance went begging as the USA killed the penalty efficiently before forcing a turnover on the blue line for Chris Wolanin to score seconds after the team returned to full strength.

In the middle frame, the USA took complete control. Conor Garland, one of the revelations of this year’s championship, scored one and assisted two more as the Americans notched four unanswered goals to put the result beyond doubt. Germany got a consolation effort midway through the third thanks to Dominik Bittner, but Ryan Donato struck at the other end to have the final say.

Former Avtomobilist defenseman Korbinian Holzer summed up his team’s championship. “It’s a tough day,” he said. “You don’t often get a chance to win a medal but at the end of the day, we didn’t play well enough to have a chance to win.”

“Overall, though, we had a really good tournament and we can be proud of that.”

Garland’s three-point haul moved him to 13 (6+7) points, and gave him second place in the tournament scoring race behind Canada’s Connor Brown.

Holzer also reflected on the challenges of playing this championship in a COVID-secure ‘bubble’ in Riga. “It was different. The corona times have been going on for a long time and now we play a tournament without getting out of the hotel or seeing the city a little bit, but I can only say thank you to everyone for making this possible,” he said.

“It’s a big thing that we all appreciate that we were able to play hockey and I hope next year we can get back to normal and get some fans back in the building.”

All-star honors

Canada’s Andrew Mangiapane, who got the goal that knocked Russia out in overtime, was voted tournament MVP by the accredited media. He also earned a place on the All-Star team, joining a forward line that also featured the USA’s Conor Garland and Britain’s Liam Kirk.

His head coach, Gerard Gallant, talked up his star’s contribution. “He was the difference maker, there’s no doubt about that. We played a good team game, everybody chipped in and did their jobs but Mangiapane came over and gave us a different level of confidence. He was outstanding, a great spark for us.”

It was an all-German defense on the media team, with Korbinian Holzer and Moritz Seider getting the nod, while Metallurg’s Juho Olkinuora was chosen as best goalie.

The tournament directorate named its top three players, and picked Cal Petersen (USA) as best goalie, Moritz Seider as best defenseman and Peter Cehlarik (Slovakia) as best forward.

Andy Potts Andy Potts
exclusive for khl.ru
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