For a nation that long dominated international hockey, Russia found itself in a drought during the 2000s. The World Junior Championship, a tournament the Soviet Union had ruled early on, was now largely the domain of Canada, which won five straight gold medals from 2005 to 2009, after having a previous five-year streak in the 1990s.
After winning back-to-back golds in 2002 and 2003, the Russians hit a Canadian roadblock, settling for silver three straight years, then bronze the next two. In 2010, the Russians suffered the indignity of losing in the quarterfinal to Switzerland, keeping them off the podium altogether and helping spawn the junior hockey legend of ‘El Nino’ Niederreiter.
So what would 2011 bring? The roster looked good, and the Russians had a new coach in Valeri Bragin, a ve...
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