-- The players of the Canadian National Junior Team were at a loss for words following their stunning third-period collapse to Russia on Wednesday in the gold-medal game of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
In a blink of an eye, gold was replaced with silver as Russia rallied from a three-goal deficit with five unanswered tallies over the final 20 minutes for an improbable but deserving 5-3 victory before a shocked Canadian-dominated crowd at HSBC Arena.
"We're up 3-0 and so excited to get the third period over with," Canada forward Marcus Foligno
said. "Then, all of a sudden, it comes up to bite you in the butt. I'm pretty shocked right now. We let down Canada but, at the same time, you really can't be too mad at yourself. We played well at this tournament. It was a tough third period. This is going to take another week to get over."
For those four returning players from last year's Canadian Junior team that dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to the United States in the gold-medal game, the loss was devastating.
"I'm just in shock right now, I really don't know what to say," defenseman Calvin de Haan
said. "You have to give them credit. I don't think any team wants to get beat up in the first two periods before making a comeback in the last 20 minutes. But, I guess everything happens for a reason."
, de Haan, captain Ryan Ellis
and forward Brayden Schenn
were all on last year's team that suffered the loss to the Americans. This one, however, was tougher to swallow.
"We weren't overconfident; we just didn't play a full game," Ellis said. "Give them credit. It's tough knowing we let the fans down, let the country down when you think you had it. But life goes on. You have to learn from it but … we came here for one thing. We came for gold and came out with silver, so obviously, we're not happy."
Schenn, who was named the tournament MVP after producing 8 goals and 18 points in seven games, tied a Canadian record for points in one WJC (Dale McCourt
, 1977). The accomplishment was put aside following the loss, however.
"Last year, it was a bang goal (in overtime)," Schenn said. "This year was worse because you can see it slipping away slowly. The third period was one of the toughest periods of hockey I've ever played. It was just really disappointing and it's hard to believe right now. We just got away from our game. We played 40 minutes and good hockey but once they got those two goals in 13 seconds (to open the third period) … that team kept fighting. I still think if we played our game in the third, we would have been wearing gold medals right now."
"We didn't win silver, I think we lost gold. That's why we came here. We didn't come here to get silver, we came here to get gold and it's a brutal feeling right now." -- Mark Visentin
Canada coach Dave Cameron tipped his cap to Russia, which rebounded from a sixth-place showing in the 2010 WJC.
"To come back once in this tournament is outstanding, but to do it when all the marbles are at stake and do it three times is terrific," Cameron said. "Hats off to them; they were deserving winners."
"You have to give them credit … that's a fighting team over there," defenseman Erik Gudbranson
said. "That's a very good team on the other side. They never gave up."
Forward Zack Kassian
sensed a feeling of helplessness as the game began to unravel right before their eyes.
"Hockey is a weird sport when you get momentum swings," Kassian said. "For anyone that's played hockey, sometimes you can't do anything to stop them. That's kind of what they did, they kept coming and coming and it's not like we folded in the tent. We were trying and working hard, but not getting any bounces. It seemed like we were standing still."
, a likely top-5 pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, had the look of a deer in headlights as he spoke to the media after the game.
"It's probably the worse third period I've ever been on a team," Couturier said. "It was tough to control and then it was over."
Canada goalie Mark Visentin
, who stopped only 5 of 10 shots in the third, was extremely disheartened.
"We didn't win silver, I think we lost gold," he said. "That's why we came here. We didn't come here to get silver, we came here to get gold and it's a brutal feeling right now. Some people didn't see us making gold medal game, and we did, but I really don't have an explanation right now."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale