Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact

Mother of a period wins gold for Russia, Oooooh Canada!!!

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

If you didn’t think it could get any louder than it was on Monday. It did.

If you didn’t think it could get any redder than it was on Monday. It was.

A buzzing, Stanley Cup Finals type atmosphere greeted the two teams at tonight’s World Juniors gold medal game between the “homestanding” Canadians and their longtime rivals from Russia. Once again it was a full house, and this time there wasn’t the smatterings of American fans to slightly deaden the Canadian influence from the audience. The HSBC Arena was roaring like a jet engine for what the fans believed would be a two plus hour party leading up to a gold medal victory for their country.

And why not believe that? Sure, Russia had made it to the gold medal game but had done it in less than impressive fashion during the preliminary pool play round, where they had lost their first two games and needed to win a do or die match with the Czechs to get the final spot in the medal round. And even then things weren’t going well for Team Russia, as they seemed to have lost their quarterfinal match with Finland until scoring a pair of goals in the final four minutes to force overtime, then won it in overtime. And the next day they had to pull a little magic again in the semifinal against Sweden, tying the game with under two mintues in regulation and winning in a shootout following the overtime.

Meanwhile Canada had blown through Switzerland and hammered the USA 4-1 in a game where the score doesn’t indicate the domination that they showed. They were sailing through the medal round, and the reward was to meet a team that only seemed to get it’s act together for about five minutes of every game. Seemed like a simple chore for the Canadians, eh?

And sure enough, from the time the puck dropped to start the game it looked Russia was going to be just another red, white, and blue team to pummel. The Canadians did their thing, outhitting, outhustling, outshooting, and flat out outplaying them in every way possible.  Of course the effort began to show up on the scoreboard as well. Once again the Canadians got on the board early in the game on a goal from Ryan Ellis who fired a slapshot from near the left circle into a wide open net thanks to horrible positioning from the Russian goaltender. Then came a killer goal as Carter Ashton made it 2-0 for them, lighting the lamp with a mere 13.5 seconds remaining in the period and sending the 18,690 fans into delirium.

The onslaught didn’t stop, and Player of the Tournament Brayden Schenn found the back of net six and a half minutes into the second to make it 3-0 and that sent Russian goalie Dmitri Shikin to the showers for the night. And later on the period, captain Vladimir Tarasenko left the game with what appered to be a skate to the face. All signs were pointing to a third period that would be nothing but a formality to the gold medal for the Canadians in front of a giddy crowd.

All it took was about fourteen seconds of the third period to change that notion, in the third minute of third stanza the Russians lighted the lamp not once, but twice. And just like that the mood of the arena changed. “Hey, the Canadians might have to work a little to win this thing”. And once again, the cardiac kids of Russia, the same ones that pulled miracles against Finland and Sweden were up to their antics again. But they wouldn’t do it again? Would they? For the third day in row? Against these guys??

Five minutes later the Russians tied it up, on a goal scored by the captain Tarasenko. The same guy that looked like he had no shot at coming back out onto the ice when he was hobbled towards the end of the previous period. Tarasenko would then go out and set up Artari Panarin with the game winner with 4:38 remaining in the third period, and for good measure Nikita Dvurechenski would bury home a fifth and final goal in the period to leave a crowd in stunned silence, and fans began to pile for the exits. Anybody who was at the arena tonight would been too, regardless of rooting interest. The Russian performance was one that could leave anyone speechless on this night.

It was only t he second time in the entire tournament that a team had hung five goals in a period (Canada had six in their win over hapless Norway). The amazing gang from Russia had struck again in the most incredible way possible and stole the gold medal out from the Canadians. 

The whole scene, as it played out reminded me of the movie “Rocky IV”. In this case the Canadian team is Ivan Drago, the invincible and unbeatable force. The Russians were Rocky Balboa, a tough and capable team, yet one that hadn’t been impressive enough to be in the same league with Canada. And just like in the movie the Russians played in front of a hostile crowd, then were getting hammered by the invincible opponent. When those fateful thirteen seconds of the third period took place, I almost wanted to hear the Russian coach say “Look at them! They’re men! They’re not a machine! They’re men!!!”. And when the comeback headed towards victory, all we needed was the Canadian crowd turning into  Russian fans and a big “We can change, everybody can change!” speech from the Russians postgame.

So what the hell happened? To hear it from Canadian coach Cameron, he felt things were falling apart prior to the end of the second period ” in the last five or six minutes…we got away from getting pucks deep, getting down low, and we didn’t convert on the late power play”. Meanwhile, during that second intermission, Russian coach Valeri Bragin was urging his players on: “We need to score the first goal” and stating that as bad as things may have seemed that “he had confidence in his team” to get back into the game. To a man, players and coaches alike, the Russians never felt like the game was lost. Even after they had to pull the goalie and after their captain was injured.

Other notes from the night that was:

-Legendary coach Scotty Bowman was on hand to give out players of the game awards.

-Canadian fans were pretty classy in defeat, applauding the winning Russian team and the efforts of the Canadians that came up just short of their goal.

-For all the hype about ticket p[rices going through the roof, it was a buyer’s market for the gold medal game outside of HSBC Arena. Face value for the ducats was $150 for uppers and $250 for clubs and lowers, but we heard of tickets changing hands in the 300 level for as little as $60 each.

-The 2011 tournament had the second highest total attendance in its history.