When an improbable source like shutdown defenceman Marco Scandella chipped in offensively, Canada had a feeling it was going to be a good night in Saskatoon.
Scandella's short-handed goal midway through the second period proved to be the game winner in the Canadian juniors' 6-1 semifinal victory against Switzerland on Sunday to punch a ticket to their ninth straight gold-medal final appearance.
Canada will be shooting for an unprecedented sixth world under-20 championship in a row on Tuesday when it meets the United States, which beat Sweden 5-2 later Sunday in the other semifinal.
But this wasn't as rosy a victory as the five-goal advantage suggested. Canadian coach Willie Desjardins verbally lambasted his players after a lacklustre and undisciplined second period.
Talented Canadian centre Nazem Kadri displayed poor sportsmanship when he refused to shake hands with 17-year-old Swiss whiz kid Nino Niederreiter after the game.
Kadri stated that Niederreiter, who plays for the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, crossed the line with some verbal taunts when the two teams met on Dec. 28.
That's why Kadri lost it when the two found themselves in the penalty box together in the game last week, a 6-0 Canada win over the Swiss.
Kadri loudly swore at Niederreiter and also made a throat-slashing gesture at the Swiss forward. The Canadian apologized the next day, but the two clearly don't like each other.
"I just didn't feel like it," said Kadri when he was asked why he didn't shake his opponent's hand. "He said some things that I feel went too far."
Desjardins felt his players strayed too far from the game plan in the second period, when Mauro Jorg scored a power-play goal for Switzerland. The Canadians gave their opponents four consecutive power plays.
"I'm sure we'll be disciplined in the final," said the 19-year-old Scandella, whose team enjoyed a 1-0 lead after the first period and 3-1 advantage following 40 minutes.
Scandella, who hails from the Montreal neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, was given the role on Canada's shutdown defence pair along with Travis Hamonic, a New York Islanders prospect who plays for the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Scandella plays a two-way game with his junior team, the Val-d'Or Foreurs. But Desjardins didn't have to sell him to sacrifice his offensive game at this tournament after the teenager learned this was the same role that newly minted Canadian Olympian Drew Doughty played at the 2008 world juniors.
"He's turned out pretty good," Scandella said. "That's our role and we're proud to do it.
"I know I can be more offensive, but we have a better chance to win if Travis and I stick to our role."
In the genes
Scandella, drafted by the Minnesota Wild, is the nephew of former NHLer Sergio Momesso. His 26-year-old brother, Giulio Scandella, played for Italy at the 2006 Olympics in Turin and currently plays for Rogle in the Swedish Elite League.
Their grandfather, Alessandro Momesso, played pro soccer in Italy. "I played soccer, too," Marco Scandella said. "But I never played at a high level."
Canada enters the final having gone 34-1 in the past six world junior tournaments.
With power-play, shorthanded and even-strength goals from Jordan Eberle, Scandella and Taylor Hall, Canada built a 3-0 lead before Jorg scored on a screened shot on the power play midway through the second period.
Brayden Schenn, Stefan Della-Rovere, Hall with his second, added goals for Canada in the third period.
Canada outshot its opponents 44-21 before a less-than-capacity and somewhat subdued crowd of 14,427 fans.