Calgary, AB - It's not an indictment of the crowd's unwavering support, but the atmosphere at Scotiabank Saddledome said all that was needed. Thursday's bronze-medal clash between Canada and Finland was to capture the consolation prize.
As devastatingly disappointing as Tuesday's result was, it was nearly impossible to replicate the energy the 19,289 brought as Canada's near-epic comeback fell short in a 6-5 loss to the Russians.
It was gold or nothing from the beginning; but as circumstances played out, the red and white were able to secure the bronze in a 4-0 win.
"It's a little better, I guess," said a still-disappointing Brett Connolly, who recorded three shots on goal and an even rating in the win. "We won. You can be happy with winning a bronze medal, but it's bittersweet. We'll take it. It's a very good experience and we're proud of the bronze medal.
"More mentally than anything," he added, noting that it was a draining process to deal with. "It was tough, it was tough to swallow but we got up the next morning with a positive attitude and moved on. We'll move on as players. For everyone who gets to play in next year's tournament, it will be a good experience for them to be leaders and help win gold."
Canada's power-play got the ball rolling 9:08 into the game. With Finland's Ville Pokka in the box serving a tripping minor, Dougie Hamilton spotted Tanner Pearson at the doorstep with a slick centering pass; No. 15 made contact, redirecting the puck past Finnish starter Sami Aittokallio.
Early in the second and with the home side up 26-8 in shots, Pearson dished to the slot where an on-location Mark Scheifele one-timed the puck upstairs, bar-in on the netminder to establish a commanding 2-0 lead.
Again on the power-play, with only 30.7 seconds to play in the middle period, a goalmouth scramble allowed Quinton Howden to pounce and slide the biscuit through Aittokallio's wickets to set a three-goal advantage.
"I'm proud of the way we battled," said Brandon Gormley, who concluded the 2012 World Junior Championship with three goals, three assists and a +4 rating. "Even in the game the other night, it's disappointing not winning the gold medal, but we battled right to the end. It's something to be proud of in the room with those guys. It's a great group."
"We were pretty drained, both physically and emotionally," Hamilton added. "With that attempt for the comeback [vs. Russia], I think that was pretty tough. We had a good couple days to get ready for this. It was tough coming into it, but I think we dug pretty deep in order to win. We're pretty proud."
As challenging as it was to get up and go, Canada did through disappointed hearts. The resilience was expressed 2:01 into the third when Mark Visentin came up big, making a miraculous, circus-like behind-the-back glove save to preserve his team's 3-0 lead. That came in addition to an equally as impressive stop earlier when he stoned Teemu Pulkkinen on a penalty shot.
"I had no idea where the puck was and no had idea until I saw it on the scoreboard," laughed Dougie Hamilton, who had a close-up view and didn't want the minus. "I smiled and screamed at him and had some fun with it. It was pretty special. I think it would have been a huge change in the game, too."
"[Visentin] was huge for us," he added. "Goaltending is important in this tournament. He stepped up and is the reason we won the bronze medal. I'm proud of him and happy for everyone."
Visentin collected 27 saves in all, pitching a shutout and rebounding well from Tuesday's game; the 19-year-old came in to replace Scott Wedgewood vs. Russia, allowing two goals in the 6-5 loss.
"It's a good feeling," he said with a smile. "Three years from now when I look back on this tournament, it's going to be good knowing I've got so many great memories and didn't come in fourth place.
"I saw it in the corner of my eye behind me, so I tried to swipe around and catch it," he added, describing the moment when he made his brilliant goal line save. "It was pretty big, but the win was most important. We got it done today."
While the reception was subdued in the game's early-going, the sold-out Scotiabank Saddledome crowd brought it all home, cheering to the end and providing their team with a most amazing end to the tournament. It was gold or nothing, but there was consolation.
And the hometown crowd showed their appreciation with vigorous might.