Canada goaltender Zachary Fucale (right) throws back his arms as he celebrates with teammates (left to right) Jake Virtanen, Lawson Crouse and Joe Hicketts following their 5-1 win over Slovakia in semifinal action at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Toronto on Sunday January 4, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Canada beats Slovakia, meets Russia for gold

Petan has hat trick as Canada beats Slovakia, will meet Russia for gold

By Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Fans at Air Canada Centre sweated through a tense first period and watched Slovak goaltender Denis Godla make save after save. By the time Canada’s world junior team pulled away in the third, the crowd was able to exhale and chant: “We Want Russia,” “We Want Gold” and even sing a full rendition of “O Canada.”

In beating Slovakia 5-1 Sunday night in the semifinals, Canada emerged from its first adversity of the tournament to reach the gold-medal game. The showdown with Russia is one the Canadians are more prepared for than they were through the first five games.

“We thought it was good for us to have that game tonight,” coach Benoit Groulx said. “You’ve got to know how to play in a tournament (in) that type of game. We kept our calm, we made some mistakes but I think we will learn from it.”

Canada learned any team is vulnerable to a hot goaltender in a single-elimination tournament as Godla was spectacular in stopping 39 of the 44 shots he faced. But Nic Petan had a hat trick, Shea Theodore and Anthony Duclair each added a goal, Connor McDavid recorded three assists and Zach Fucale made 14 saves to ensure the end of Canada’s world junior medal drought that dated back to 2012.

“This is something I dream of, getting this opportunity,” said McDavid, who insisted he was fine after colliding with linemate Curtis Lazar in the third period and hesitating to get up. “Have this in front of us tomorrow, can’t look too far ahead. You have a great Russian team ahead of us.”

Even though these are teenagers who weren’t even born when Russia was the Soviet Union, players know full well the history of the rivalry between these two countries. It will get another chapter Monday night.

“That rivalry that’s been together since the ’72 Summit Series that I’ve been told about and see highlights of all the time, it’s going to be something special,” defenceman Joe Hicketts said. “It’s an honour for me to get to wear the Maple Leaf in that game.”

Russian coach Valeri Bragin said facing Canada was “the best thing for all of the hockey community” and called Russia-Canada a “hockey classic.”

Canada will only get to take part in this classic final because it shook off some early struggles against Slovakia. Players knew their opponent would be much tougher than they were in an 8-0 rout on Boxing Day, and it took some time before Canada was able to assert its talent advantage and physical dominance.

“They hung around for a lot longer, I guess, than a lot of people would have expected,” defenceman Josh Morrissey said. “For us, we just kept going, we didn’t get frustrated. That was our main focus on the bench was not to get too frustrated and just play. We knew that if we kept doing the right things, they would come.”

They did, led by McDavid and Petan, who was bumped up to the second line and rewarded Groulx and his staff. Petan said it was an unbelievable feeling to see hats come down from many of the 18,002 in attendance, including his father.

Just a half-hour after Canada finished the job against Slovakia, the attention was already on Russia. The Russians, who beat Sweden earlier Sunday, are standing between Canada and its first gold medal in this tournament since 2009 in Ottawa.

“That’s going to be a tough game,” Russia’s Rinat Valiev said. “I saw a couple games, they’re very skilled. But we played against Canada before so I’m not scared to play against (them).”

Canada and Russia last met for gold in 2011 in Buffalo. Russian forward Ivan Barbashev said fans all over that country remember the comeback from down 3-0 for the 5-3 victory, a game Canadians would much rather forget.

“It was unreal,” Barbashev said. “We have a pretty good team this year and we can beat anyone.”

This was the first time in history Canada and Slovakia faced off in the world junior semifinals. When it was still a one-goal game 20 minutes in, Petan wasn’t surprised because he and his teammates were prepared for a tight matchup.

“Some teams do take teams lightly,” Petan said. “The biggest thing was not taking them lightly. After the first game obviously they got better on in the tournament.”

This is a better Canadian team, too, even though Petan called the first period the worst of the tournament. After being tied in shots 6-6, Canada put 38 on net to Slovakia’s nine the rest of the way.

By the time Duclair scored early in the third, there was a palpable sense of relief in the arena. Petan completing the hat trick began the series of chants that Morrissey could only describe as “inspiring.”

Canada hopes to have an inspired performance Monday night against Russia with a chance to make history.

“We have to understand that maybe we didn’t play as well as we wanted to today,” Hicketts said. “(Against Russia) we know we’re going to have to play a complete 60 minutes of hard-hitting and fast Canadian hockey.”

Follow @SWhyno on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Oct. 18

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Brandon Nathan Teixeira, arrested last December in California in connection with a fatal 2017 shooting in South Surrey, is next due in court on Nov. 12. (File photos)
Notorious South Surrey fugitive returns to court Nov. 12

Brandon Teixeira was arrested last December in California

THROUGH YOUR LENS: Micheal McGarry shared a snap shot of autumn, in the form of a tugboat trolling down the Fraser River, as he recently saw from the Edgewater Bar area of Derby Reach Regional Park. Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, email to: editor@langleyadvancetimes.com. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
SHARE: Reflections of autumn

Send us your photo showing how you view Langley, and it could be featured in a future edition

A case of COVID-19 at Langley Lodge was declared over on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 (Langley Advance Times file)
COVID-19 case over at Langley Lodge

No new cases have been discovered

Mary Foote (right) took part in the Gutsy Walk in August 2020 at the age of 104. She was joined by son in-law Clarence and daughter Edith Olson. (family photo)
Langley woman turns 105 on Oct. 25

In August, Mary Foote took part in the Gutsy Walk to battle Crohn’s and Colitis

Maple Meadows Station’s new Bike Parkade. TransLink photo
TransLink to remove abandoned or discarded bicycles from bike parkades

Rules at TransLink bike parkades ask customers to use facilities for single day use only

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Officers with the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team were at a White Rock home Tuesday (Oct. 20) to assist Vancouver Police Department with execution of a search warrant. (Contributed photo)
ERT, VPD response to White Rock home connected to homicide: police

Search underway in the 15800-block of Prospect Crescent

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Most Read