-- In what could go down as the most exciting defeat in Canadian Junior Hockey history, Canada rallied with a four-goal third period but came up short, falling 6-5 to Team Russia.
The defeat puts Canada in the bronze medal match against Finland, signifying the first time in a decade that the Canucks will not competing for gold.
However, Canada would go down fighting. Entering the final frame, Canada saw themselves on the wrong side of a 5-1 score, but the red and white refused to accept their perceived fate.
"We never stopped believing," said team captain, Jaden Schwartz. "We gave it a final push but have to play sixty minutes, you can't just have a final push at the end. We battled back hard and had a chance to tie it up but couldn't finish."
Dougie Hamilton provided the first shred of hope with just over ten minutes remaining. He was on the receiving end of a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended up in Russia’s net.
Just 23-seconds later, Jaden Schwartz banked it in from behind the net off a Russian defender, cutting the lead to 6-3 much to the delight of the 19,289 screaming fans in the Scotiabank Saddledome.
The miraculous comeback continued taking shape as Brendan Gallagher provided the tip on Dougie Hamilton’s shot from the point.
With fans in the 'Dome and around the country going wild, Brandon Gormley rocketed one through from the blue line with over five minutes left to put the game within one.
Although they were able to put one off the iron with 40 seconds remaining, for the Canadians, their response would be too little too late.
For the second consecutive year, Russia dashed Team Canada’s dreams of a gold medal. It was a crushing defeat to say the least for Team Canada, with fans and players unable to find a little bit of solace in outstanding late-game effort.
“It was definitely pretty special," quipped Canadian blueliner Dougie Hamilton. "I think at one point I think I had goosebumps out there and I was enjoying it a lot. Pretty disappointed at the sound of the buzzer at the end."
Despite the thunderous support of Team Canada fans, it was Russia who would get on the board first.
Russian captain, Yevgeni Kuznetsov was dished an impressive pass on the odd-man rush from Nail Yakupov to put the Russians up 1-0. Both players proved to be troublesome for Canada, each recording four points on the night as Kuznetsov tallied a hat trick and Yakupov four helpers.
"We got away from our game plan right off the start and they got a couple of quick goals. We got away from our systems and took some undisciplined penalties that we shouldn’t be taking and the game went downhill from there.”
After closing out the first period with a 2-0 deficit, things would only get worse for the Canadians in the middle frame.
“It's a rivalry, Canada; Russia. It's not easy to swallow but it's unacceptable for us to start a game like that,” said Brett Connolly.
Canada managed to cut the lead in half 2:33 into the period as Connolly came out of the corner on a delayed penalty call and snapped it over the Russia goaltender’s right shoulder.
Three goals within a seven-minute span for the Russians deflated the Canadians, as well as silenced the previously rambunctious Saddledome crowd.
Mark Visentin replaced Scott Wedgewood in net after the fourth Russian goal when Wedgewood was run over by Russia’s Alexander Khokhlachev after the puck entered the net.
After the game Wedgewood said that his lower back and neck gave out after being blindsided after the goal. He did, however, take in the incredible third period push by his teammates.
“It was something that I’ve never experienced before. The crowd was great once we started rolling there. Once we got the first one and the second one things started to click. That’s the way Canada hockey is supposed to be played, never back down and we didn’t,” said Wedgewood.
During his half of the game, Wedgwood made nine saves on 13 shots, while Visentin made nine stops on 11 shots.
“We didn't support them enough, there were careless mistakes that we made and it's not their fault, it's a team game,” said Gormley.
Meanwhile Russian backstop, Andrei Vasilevski had another outstanding outing as he was pounded with 49 shots, with late-game replacement, Andrei Makarov stopping all seven shots he faced.
“We’re proud of our country and we’re not going to give up and roll over just because we didn’t get the gold medal opportunity,” commented Wedgewood.
Canada will play Finland for the Bronze medal on Thursday at 1:30pm (MST) while Sweden and Russia duke it out for gold at 6:00pm.Author: Avery Buye