Canada is expected to win the gold medal at the World Junior Hockey Championship each and every year and the team fulfilled its destiny Sunday in the Czech Republic with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Russia.
Barrett Hayton, Canada’s captain, was a game-time decision after suffering a shoulder injury in the semifinals against Finland, but he not only played in the final, he scored the tying goal in the third period.
He was the same guy who was chastised by the Russians — and rightfully so — for not removing his helmet during the playing of their national anthem after Russia humiliated Canada 6-0 in the round robin.
Minutes after Hayton’s goal, teammate Akil Thomas scored his only goal of the tournament and for the 18th time at the World Juniors, Canada struck gold again.
The victory avenged Canada’s worst loss in tournament history, that 6-0 debacle against Russia, and boosted the Canadians’ record against their arch-rivals in the gold medal game to five wins and four losses.
Sunday’s win by head coach Dale Hunter’s team capped off what will go down as one of Canada’s most incredible gold medal victories.
Canada played two games without top player Alexis Lafreniere because of a knee injury, Joe Veleno was suspended for one game for head butting a Russian player in that 6-0 thrashing, goalie Joel Hofer took over for a shell-shocker Nico Daws in that same game, Hayton showed supreme gutsiness in the final, and Canada rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third period of the gold medal game — can you believe it?
The World Juniors is always chock full of surprises and extraordinary performances and the 2020 event was no exception.