PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – Tyler Ennis and his Canadian teammates defeated Russia 6-1 to become the 2015 IIHF World Champions on Sunday at O2 Arena in Prague.
The Canadians didn't need any extra motivation for tonight's game, but when the Russians provided them with some in the form of a staredown during warmups, it was enough to push them over the end and dominate this game.
"That was exactly what our team needed. We talked about which staredown would be more important - the one before the game or the one after - and we decided that it'd be the one after so, we appreciate the motivation," Team Canada coach Todd McLellan said. "This wasn't a 3-2 win. It was a 6-1 thrashing….it was very satisfying."
Canada pressured from the opening face-off including opportunities by Tyson Barrie, Muzzin and Sidney Crosby as they peppered Sergei Bobrovsky with 14 shots. Then with 1:50 left in the opening period, Ennis shot the puck on net after pulling a little spin-o-rama to shake off the defender that hit Cody Eakin on the way past Bobrovsky to give Canada the 1-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Less than two minutes into the second period, it was Ennis again making things happen. This time it was a beautiful wraparound to make it 2-0.
A minute and a half later, Sergei Mozyakin had a great shot on goal that was saved by Mike Smith. It would be Russia's only shot on goal in the period as Canada dominated possession and smothered every Russian offensive opportunity.
"Everyone contributed," Ennis said. "We rolled four lines all tournament long…we really wanted to win this tournament and a lot of great players committed to come over and it's a great feeling to win a gold medal."
Nearing the midway point of the game, Jordan Eberle makes a great pass from behind the net to Crosby waiting in the low circle with a quick release and it's 3-0, Canada. Less than a minute later, Tyler Seguin makes it 4-0 as the trailer on a partial breakaway by Claude Giroux and the Russian's are reeling.
So much so that they would take three penalties in the next eight minutes of the game.
In the third period, Russia tried to generate more offensively, but Canada just pushed back even harder. Giroux scored on the power play and Nathan MacKinnon scored a fluky goal to make it 6-0.
With seven minutes left in regulation, Yevgeni Malkin tipped in Mozyakin's shot from the point to end Smith's scoreless streak at 190 minutes, but it wasn't nearly enough as Canada takes home the gold for the first time in eight years at this event.
"I thought we had a lot of talent on this team," said Richards. "But talent doesn't win games alone. Talent has to work. Talent has to play together. Talent has to be committed to doing the little things that are very, very important to win and we had that game in and game out."
There was a staredown by the Russians during warmup of the gold medal game, apparently meant to intimidate, but all it did was motivate. Probably more impressive than the 6-1 score was that Canada limited Russia to just 12 shots on goal.
McLellan thanked them for the extra motivation in his post game press conference - "That was exactly what our team needed. We talked about which staredown would be more important - the one before the game or the one after - and we decided that it'd be the one after so, we appreciate the motivation. This wasn't a 3-2 win. It was a 6-1 thrashing….it was very satisfying."
There was also the issue of Russia leaving the ice after receiving their silver medals and shaking Canada's hands, but before the playing of the Canadian national anthem as is customary. There were a handful of players that lingered, including Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeni Dadonov and Artemi Panarin, but Russian captain Ilya Kovalchuk called them off the ice.
With the win, Canada also won the inaugural Infront Team Jackpot for winning all ten games played in the tournament in regulation. That's 1 million Swiss francs - roughly $1,092,000 - for Hockey Canada to use as they see fit. In the past 25 years, this feat has only been accomplished three times - Canada in 1994 and Russia in 2012 and 2014.
Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby joined the Triple Gold Club having won the Stanley Cup (2009), Olympic gold (2010, 2014) and now the World Championship, not to mention another gold at the World Junior Championship in 2005.
Team USA defeated the Czech Republic 3-0 at O2 Arena earlier in the day to win the bronze medal at this event for the second time in three years.
With only 14 NHL players -- two playing in European leagues, two AHL goalies and five guys fresh out of college -- the U.S. did what very few people thought they could do three weeks ago: win a medal.
"Before we came to this tournament, I don't think a lot of people were giving us a chance to win anything at this tournament," Team USA coach Todd Richards said. "There were questions about goaltenders. There were questions about youth, saying we weren't experienced enough and for a lot of guys this was their first experience in international hockey.
"You come over here and you don't know what you have and you go out and you practice for the first time and our first practice was terrible. It really was. It actually made you scared as a coach. You don't know what to expect and then you win a game and you win another game and the goaltender's playing well and gives the team confidence and you're able to coach a little bit more and teach a little bit more and your game gets better and better….I'm really proud of them."
The Czechs came out strong for the first few minutes and the U.S. relied heavily on goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to help them weather the storm as he came up with big save after big save. Near the midway point of the first period, Brock Nelson, who led USA in goals with six, fired a shot from the boards that was stopped by Ondrej Pavelec but a juicy rebound went right to Nick Bonino in the slot, who put it home for a 1-0 lead.
In the final minutes of the opening frame, Jack Eichel threaded a pass through traffic to find Trevor Lewis in front for the redirection and another Team USA goal to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes.
"I just went to the net and I knew Jack would see me," Lewis explained. "He's got great vision and made an awesome pass and I just tipped it in."
Knowing they were in a hole, the Czech Republic again jumped out to a fast start with opportunities by Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Dominik Simon, Jan Kolar, but Hellebuyck was there each and every time, including a spectacular toe save against Martin Erat and several good looks on a four minute power play. Shots in that period were 12-4 in favor of the Czechs, but Team USA once again weathered the storm and waited for their opportunities.
With 50 seconds left in the second, Coyle found himself with the puck high in the slot and wired a shot past Pavelec to make it 3-0 after 40 minutes of play.
In the third period, the Czech Republic gave it everything they had, firing 16 shots on Hellebuyck - while the U.S. only had one - but the 21 year old stood tall again in net to earn the 35-save shutout and help Team USA win the bronze.
"Connor was great tonight. Again, he was our best player," Lewis said. "When we had breakdowns, he was there to stop pucks for us. He was awesome. I can't say enough about him. He was great."
Hellebuyck, Lewis and defenseman Seth Jones were named as Team USA's best players of the tournament.
"Expectations were to win gold when we first came here," Lewis said. "We had a young group and I thought we battled hard all the way through and we had a great tournament. To come away from here with a medal is awesome."
Just like at the Olympics, the organizing committee is able to design the medals with national characteristics.
This year's medals were thick like a hockey puck (because most hockey pucks used around the world are made in the Czech Republic) and hollow on the inside to feature beautifully faceted Czech Crystal, showcasing the flag of the Czech Republic. The IIHF logo was brushed onto the center. "2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship" was inscribed around the ring of the medal.
Fans set a new attendance record with 741,690 in total attendance in Prague and Ostrava, shattering the previous record of 640,044 set at last year's event in Minsk. The record is safe for at least one year as it will be mathematically impossible for it to be broken considering the seating capacity of the arenas to be used in Moscow (12,100) and St Petersburg (7,300).
- Best Goaltender: Pekka Rinne, Finland: He finished the tournament with three shutouts and set a tournament record with 204 consecutive scoreless minutes.
- Best Defenseman: Brent Burns, Canada: He had two goals and nine assists in ten games played and was a +4 averaging more than 21 minutes per game.
- Best Forward: Jason Spezza, Canada: He had six goals and eight assists to lead the tournament with 14 points in ten games and was a plus-7.
Tournament All Stars (as named by the media):
- Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck, USA - He lead the tournament in all statistical categories with a .948 save percentage and 1.37 goals against average in eight games played with two shutouts while facing the most shots per game.
- Defenseman: Brent Burns, Canada
- Defenseman: Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Sweden: He lead all defenseman in scoring with two goals and ten assists for 11 points in eight games.
- Forward: Jason Spezza, Canada
- Forward: Taylor Hall, Canada: He had seven goals and five assists for 12 points in ten games played.
- Forward and Tournament MVP: Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic: He had six goals and three assists and had an impact in all ten games at the age of 43. Although he came out of international retirement to participate in this tournament, he said this would be the last time he played for the national team.
Here are the groupings for next year's tournament in Russia from May 6-22, 2016:
Group A in St. Petersburg:
Hungary - promoted
Group B in Moscow:
Kazakhstan - promoted