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Canada defeats U.S. to win World U-18 gold

by Adam Kimelman /

It wasn't the most memorable postseason for the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but two of their players will go into the offseason with positive feelings.

Frederik Gauthier's goal with 3:32 left in the second period put Canada ahead, and teammate Philippe Desrosiers made 33 saves to preserve the lead and help Canada take the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship with a 3-2 win against the United States on Sunday.

"Just indescribable, a great feeling," Gauthier told reporters at Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia. "I don't know what to say. Amazing. One of the best feelings in the world."

Gauthier, ranked No. 8 by NHL Central Scouting in its final ranking of North American skaters for the 2013 NHL Draft, found space in the slot and buried a pass from Nicholas Baptiste for the game-winner.

"We went on a 3-on-2 and Baptiste made a really great pass, and I just shot it right away and it went in," Gauthier said.

McDavid named tournament MVP

Connor McDavid is 16 years old and isn't eligible for the NHL draft until 2015, but no doubt teams already are counting the days until they have a chance to select him.

Playing for Canada, McDavid was voted the Most Valuable Player and best forward at the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Championship after finishing with tournament highs of eight goals and 14 points. His six assists tied him for the top spot, his plus-8 rating was tied for second, and he won 64.2 percent of his faceoffs.

He had three three-point games, and had a hat trick in back-to-back games, against Sweden in the final game of the preliminary round and against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.

"I think Connor McDavid really showed what type of player he is to the world," Canada coach Don Hay told reporters in Sochi, Russia, after Canada beat the United States 3-2 in the gold-medal game Sunday. "He is a younger player who is really committed to improving as a player. He gives Canada a bright future, a young player to build around and hopefully he will be able to lead the team to more medals."
Finland's Juuse Saros, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European goaltender for the 2013 NHL Draft, was named the tournament's best goalie. Saros was one of two goalies to play every minute for his team in the tournament, and he finished second in goals-against average (1.86) and save percentage (.946) to earn the bronze medal.
Steven Santini of the United States was named the tournament's best defenseman. Santini, No. 47 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters for this year's draft, didn't have a point, but his plus-8 rating was tied for second in the tournament.

-- Adam Kimelman

Desrosiers made the lead hold up, despite his team being outshot 35-12 by the United States. Desrosiers, No. 7 on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goalies, finished the tournament as the leader in goals-against average (0.80) and save percentage (.970); in four games, he allowed five goals.

"I just focused puck by puck and tried to play well for my team," Desrosiers said. "Just really happy right now … this was the best experience of my life. It was my first international tournament and I'm very glad to be a part of Team Canada."

Laurent Dauphin had a goal and an assist, Baptiste had two assists, and Madison Bowey had a goal for Canada. All three are ranked among the top 65 North American skaters in Central Scouting's final rankings.

The United States saw its streak of four straight gold medals snapped. Connor Clifton and Mike McCarron each had a goal, and goalie Thatcher Demko, a candidate for the 2014 draft, made nine saves.

"Devastated," U.S. coach Don Granato said of his players. "I was hoping to try and have them hold their heads up, but when I left for the press conference there wasn't a single piece of equipment off of any of them, and a lot of tears. They put a lot in. There's a lot of pressure on those kids. We came in and everybody's talking about how we won four in a row and those kids got the best of every team. They were spectacular facing the challenges that were put to them, but it's just going to take time for them to get over this loss."

Dauphin scored the only goal of the first period, beating Demko 9:29 into the game. The United States answered with a pair in the first half of the second period. Clifton's shot from the point through traffic tied the game 1:48 into the second, then McCarron, No. 35 on Central Scouting's list, won a battle for the puck in the Canadian end and beat Desrosiers at 9:42 of the second.

Bowey tied the game for Canada with 7:12 left in the second when he jammed a loose puck in front of the U.S. net under Demko.

Desrosiers stopped all 10 shots the U.S. team fired on him in the third. The United States had one last chance in the game's final moments, when Bowey was sent off for hooking with 42 seconds left, but with Demko on the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage, the Americans couldn't find the equalizer.

"It sends a chill down my spine and through my body," Canada forward and 2013 draft prospect Zach Nastasiuk said. "I have never experienced anything like this."

In the bronze-medal game played earlier Sunday, Finland's Artturi Lehkonen, a top prospect for the 2013 draft, scored 34 seconds into the game, and Juuse Saros, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated European goaltender, made that early goal stand up in a 2-1 victory against Russia.

Lehkonen, No. 9 in Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters, needed less than a minute to put Finland ahead, jumping on a loose puck, skating to the top of the right circle and firing a wrist shot past goalie Igor Shestyorkin.

"It means a lot," Lehkonen told reporters. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is the last time I can play in an under-18 tournament, so it also means a lot to me personally. I will remember this all my life."

Kasperi Kapanen added the game-winner at 9:43 of the first period when he scored off his own rebound.

Saros made 24 saves and was named his team's best player. The only puck to get past him came midway through the second period on a nice individual effort by Vladimir Tkachyov, who deked a Finnish defenseman and beat Saros for a power-play goal.

"It's really easy to say he's the best player on our team," Kapanen said of Saros. "I could say he's the best goalie of the tournament. We certainly wouldn't have made it all this way without him."

That was as close as Russia would get, despite outshooting Finland 10-5 in the third period. It came close to tying the game when Pavel Buchnevich reached through a scrum in front of the net to push the puck across the goal line, but the referees waived off the goal, saying play had been blown dead.

It's the first U-18 medal for Finland since 2010, when they defeated Russia to win the bronze.

"It's great to win bronze," Finland forward Juuso Ikonen, another 2013 draft prospect. "It's not what we came here for, but it still feels great."


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