Mission accomplished: Team Canada wins 5th straight gold
Hodgson collects 3 points against Sweden, Tavares named tournament MVP
It was just under two minutes left in the third period when a deafening roar filled Scotiabank Place in Ottawa.
"Canada, Canada, Canada."
The fans should have added two more "Canadas" to their chant, one for every gold medal the national junior men's team has won at the world junior hockey championships over the last five years.
Canada didn't just beat Sweden 5-1 in Monday's gold-medal game. The Swedes said they wanted to learn what it takes to win, and the Canadians gave them a clinic.
Team Canada had said it wanted to peak in the championship game, and it hit the summit in full stride.
Goalie Dustin Tokarski had said he had to be better, and he was.
His teammates had said they had to be better in front of him, and they were.
"Congratulations, Canada," Swedish forward Magnus Svensson Paajarvi said after the game. 'We were close but yet so far."
The Swedes knew the Canadians would be coming after them in waves and the plan was to match toughness with toughness.
But when Mikael Backlund went off for roughing 22 seconds after the opening faceoff of the game, Canada went on the power play and scored, with P.K. Subban jamming the puck past goalie Jacob Markstrom 16 seconds later.
The crowd was into it, and Sweden knew it was in for a long night.
Canada's fifth straight championship tied the country's record for consecutive gold medals, matching the five won between 1993 and 1997.
Canada's 15th gold at the world juniors also matches Russia/Soviet Union for the all-time lead.
It was Canada's eighth straight appearance in the championship game and marked the 11th straight year the Canadian juniors have won a world medal.
"There is nothing like this," said forward and tournament most valuable player John Tavares. "This is five Canada, five. We wanted to bring it home for you."
After being cut from the Canadian team three straight years, Angelo Esposito made his last chance to represent his country at the world juniors memorable.
Esposito scored on a backhand at 4:06 of the second period, slightly more than 30 seconds after he won a race for a loose puck with Markstrom. They collided, sending the goalie spinning like a top.
Backlund was handed his second penalty of the game at the end of the second period and Cody Hodgson ripped a wrist shot past Markstrom for a 3-0 lead 33 seconds into the third.
The Swedes eventually broke Tokarski's shutout bid, but empty-net goals by Jordan Eberle and Hodgson secured the world title.
"Cape Pele, [N.B.], will be going crazy now," said Patrice Cormier after the game about his hometown. "This is very, very special."
Tavares tipped his hand to the partisan crowd, saying it was an honour to mine gold for them on home soil.
"Look at the support we have," Tavares said as he looked up into the stands and saw a sea of people dressed in red and white. "Five in a row and you can't say enough about this. There is nothing better than this. Being at home, there is nothing better than this."
"It feels unbelievable," Subban said. "We came to Ottawa as one team on one mission and it is an unbelievable feeling right now."
Riding talent, heart, emotion to victory
Everyone talks about Canadian juniors winning with heart and emotion, but the talent level on this team was a factor.
Tavares cemented his spot atop the list of draft-eligible players for the 2009 NHL entry draft, putting a huge gap between himself and Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman.
The Vancouver Canucks have to be thrilled with the performance of their prospect Hodgson, who was the tournament's top scorer.
Subban, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, was a delight to watch on the blue-line, heading up ice on a rush.
Tavares, Subban and Hodgson were named to the tourney all-star team, along with Sweden's Erik Karlsson, Russia's Nikita Filitov and Slovak goalie Jaroslav Janus.
At 65, Pat Quinn was the oldest person ever to coach Canada's national junior team. On Tuesday, he'll head back to Vancouver, clean the snow off his deck and then head to the desert on vacation.
While Quinn likes collecting gold medals, he said the reward was watching a bunch of kids young enough to be his grandsons come together and win a world title.
"To work with these young men and what they went through to win, I don't know if there is a better reward," said Quinn, who won a gold medal at the World Under-18 championship last spring along with an Olympic gold medal in 2002.
"This team is right up there."
The Canadians were definitely enjoying the moment. They wore their world championship baseball caps backwards, hugged each other and headed out into the night as world champs.
"Unbelievable," Eberle said. "It has not sunk in yet. World champions."
Team Canada will now try to make it six straight world junior titles at the 2010 tournament in Regina and Saskatoon.