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Canada's Fucale comes up big in third to win gold

by Mike Brophy / NHL.com

TORONTO -- History will show Canada goalie Zachary Fucale shut the door on Russia in a 5-4 win in the gold-medal game of the IIHF World Junior Championship at Air Canada Centre on Monday.

Fucale made 11 saves in the third period to help Canada protect a one-goal lead. Overall, Russia out-shot Canada 30-21.

But the Montreal Canadiens' prospect opted to share the credit.

"I am pretty happy we were here in Canada with our fans," Fucale said. "You guys don't know how much the fans helped us. From the start of the tournament until now, they supported us and we owe them a huge thank you for that."

Fucale entered the gold-medal game with very impressive numbers: a 4-0 record, two shutouts, a 0.50 goals-against average and .971 save percentage. Canada spotted him a 5-1 lead, but then ran into penalty troubles in the second period and Russia stormed back with three goals in 3:16 to make it 5-4.

Between the second and third periods, Canada players kept things light in the dressing room. Fucale was one of the ringleaders in terms of joking to ease the pressure.

"It might seem a little bit odd, but if someone told us before the game we would be up by a goal after two periods, that is exactly where we would want to be," Fucale said. "It wouldn't matter if it was 6-5 or 1-0 that is exactly where we would want to be. I am really proud and happy how we reacted. We were ready for the third period. We knew it was the last 20 minutes [and] we would play together."

When center Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) scored at 12:30 of the second period to make it 5-1 it looked to some like the host country would win in a laugher.

Canada's players, however, were not thinking that way.

"Obviously we knew the Russians would battle back and make it into a hockey game," Fucale said. "They never give up. It has happened in the past and we have seen it before. We told each other before the tournament if something like that happens we have to stick together. We have to keep playing and that is exactly what we did."

Fucale was not challenged often leading up to the final game. But when the tournament was on the line, he was at his very best.

"Fooks was a wall back there," Canada defenseman Josh Morrissey said. "That is such a tough position. My brother is a goalie and I have grown up watching him. I feel for his parents in the stands because it can be pretty nerve-wracking. Fooks is a calm guy who talks a lot and he made some huge saves and calmed us down."

Canada captain Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) said Fucale was, "awesome" in the third period.

"He was great," added Canada forward Connor McDavid (draft eligible 2015). "He is the best goalie at this age and he really showed that tonight. He came up big when we asked him to. It was great."

Fucale said he had to dig deep when the wheels started to come off and the Russians forged their second-period comeback.

"There were a lot of things that happened very fast and you don't have a lot of time to stop and think at that moment," Fucale said. "You have to rely on all the things you have been doing since you were a kid. You come back to the little things that make you happy and make you play your best. It's not an easy thing, that's for sure."

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