Canada-Russia world junior history
There have been a lot of twists and turns in the rivalry between Canada and the Russians at the world junior championships, with each accumulating many memorable winning moments heading into Wednesday's gold medal meeting in Buffalo.
Canada has won the tournament 15 times since its 1977 debut, with the Russians winning 12 times.
The teams have accounted for the majority of all medals in the tournament's history, and only in 1987 did the podium not feature at least one of the countries — for a quite memorable reason.
The rivalry at the junior tournament didn't get off to a great start for Canada.
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In 1977, the St. Catharines Fincups took silver and were never really in it against the Soviet Union. Sergei Makarov and his teammates led 6-0 after the first period, with John Anderson and the Fincups rallying to make the final a respectable 6-4.
The 1978 tournament has became known over the years as heralding the emergence on the international scene of Wayne Gretzky — as well as some other future NHL greats — but their reputations have put a rosy patina on what at the time was a fledgling event.
Average tournament attendance in Montreal was about 1,500 people per game, with the Soviet Union-Canada game played to slightly fewer than 7,000 at the Forum. Can you imagine?
Canada took a 2-0 lead against the Soviets — who they had thumped in an exhibition weeks earlier — but lost the game 3-2. The Soviets took the gold, while Canada ended up with bronze.
1st win over Russians
Canada won gold in 1982, beating the Russians for the first time ever in world junior play.
They did it again in surprising fashion in 1985, after both teams headed into the meeting undefeated in four games.
Wendel Clark set up the first goal with — what else? — a big check. Claude Lemieux assisted on the second as Canada rolled to a 5-0 win over its rivals.
And then there was 1987.
Bert Templeton's squad was unbeaten heading into its final game in Czechoslovakia, against a struggling Russian side. The memorable bench-clearing, lights-out brawl ensued, with future NHLers Brendan Shanahan and Mike Keane among those involved in the "Punch-Up in Piestany."
Enraging CBC commentator Don Cherry and many around the country, both teams were disqualified, costing Canada a medal. Others were disgusted by the whole spectacle.
From 1988 to 1997, Canada would dominate the tournament overall, winning eight times.
But the Soviets were usually next best until the emergence of the Swedes. The Russians won two gold and four silver during the aforementioned span.
De facto gold medal games
It is easy to forget the tournament featured a round robin format back then, as on two memorable occasions during that span there were de facto gold medal games between Canada and the Russians.
In 1988, the gold medal was essentially decided in the fourth of six games for both teams, as both had easy marks on their schedule later in the tournament.
Theo Fleury opened the scoring as Canada held on for a 3-2 victory.
Defenceman John Slaney scored with just over five minutes left in the third to break a tie in 1991, giving Canada a 3-2 win over the Russians. Canada's gold came with an assist from Finland, who denied Russia an opportunity to clinch the gold in the previous game by tying them.
During Canada's remarkable run to five straight gold later in the decade, the only one on home soil came in Red Deer, Alta., in 1995.
Canada won a wild 8-5 game over Russia en route to finishing first. Eric Daze scored a hat trick as Canada capitalized on a five-minute major penalty to Russia.
The tables began to turn later in the decade, with Russia and Canada finishing 1-2 at the event three times between 1999 and 2003.
The most memorable of these Russian wins was the last, with 17-year-old Alex Ovechkin and his teammates rallying for a heartbreaker for Halifax fans in a 3-2 finale.
It remains the last time the Russians have beaten Canada in the gold medal game.
The Canadians got the best of the Russians three consecutive times in the finale beginning in 2005.
The 2005 squad featured six players who would go on years later to gold at the 2010 Olympics, including Sidney Crosby. Jeff Carter and Patrice Bergeron would help break open a close game as Canada thumped Ovechkin and the Russians 6-1 in Grand Forks.
Two years later, the Russians couldn't solve Justin Pogge and Steve Downie would break the ice in a 5-0 rout in Vancouver.
It remains to be seen who will write the next chapter in the series Wednesday in Buffalo.