Canada, Russia face off for world junior gold

Canada and Russia are squaring off in the gold-medal final at the world junior hockey championships in Buffalo, N.Y., renewing a long-standing rivalry.

Canadians looking to reclaim hockey title

Canada and Russia are squaring off in the gold-medal final at the world junior hockey championships in Buffalo, N.Y., renewing a long-standing rivalry.

No two countries have dominated this tournament like these two old foes.

Since the official inception of the event in 1977, Canada and Russia have combined to win 27 gold medals, with the Canadians victorious 15 times.

Dating back to the time they were known as the Soviet Union, the Russians took control by skating to the first four titles, and seven of the initial 10 competitions.

Canada has since taken over, winning 10 gold medals in 17 years — a streak that includes five consecutive titles on two separate occasions.

The Canadians are competing in their 10th straight gold-medal game.

The teams have used vastly different paths to the final this time around.

Canada, looking to avenge last year's gold-medal loss to the Americans, has had the smoother ride.

After convincing opening-round victories against Russia (6-3), the Czech Republic (7-2) and Norway (10-1), the Canadians suffered a mild setback following a 6-5 shootout loss to Sweden, forcing them to play a quarter-final game.


Will you watch tonight's gold-medal match? Take our survey

But while many feared the extra game could hurt Canada, the matchup with Switzerland only strengthened the team. A 4-1 victory set up what tournament organizers had hoped would be another dream matchup between Canada and the defending champion Americans in the semifinal on Monday night.

The game, however, resembled more of a hockey handbook on how to whip your opponent. From the opening faceoff, the Canadians overwhelmed the U.S., displaying their superiority in every way as they outshot their rivals 41-23 en route to a 4-1 victory.

The win was one of the most impressive performances by a Canadian team in the history of international hockey.

"It's probably the most complete game as I've ever played with a team," said captain and defenceman Ryan Ellis, a two-time Memorial Cup winner with the Windsor Spitfires and 2009 gold-medal winner with the Canadian juniors. "My team was lights out, second to none. That's a very good team over there, but we just had something else tonight."

Scoring hasn't been an issue, not with Brayden Schenn leading the way. The fifth overall pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2009, Schenn sits atop the tournament leader board with seven goals and 16 points.

The Russians, meanwhile, have been this competition's version of the Kardiac Kids. After struggling to make it to the knockout round following losses to Canada and Sweden in the preliminary stage, Russia used two heart-pounding victories to advance to the final.

During the quarter-final matchup with Finland on Sunday, Russia scored two late third-period goals before winning in overtime. Still feeling the effects from the emotional evening, the Russians let a two-goal lead slip away against Sweden the next night, but battled back to win a 4-3 shootout thriller.

Goalie Dmitri Shikin stole the show, making 48 stops in regulation followed by 10 saves in the four-on-four 10-minute overtime. He also stopped the three shots he faced in the shootout.

As they lined up along the ice, the elated juniors belted out the words to their national anthem, something rarely seen during past occasions.

Now with the final underway, both nations have plenty of incentive to win gold. Russia hasn't been in the title match since losing to Canada in 2007.

The Canadians want to erase the sting of dropping their title to the U.S. last season in Saskatoon, a defeat that snapped five-straight gold medals.

"Losing last year really stung a lot, for a lot of Canadians," said Ellis. "Everybody kind of bashed us in the media, saying we're not skilled, we're not the go-to team, we're underdogs. That lit a little fire [with] everyone doubting us. You can never count us out."

With files from Tim Wharnsby