For the fourth time in World Junior Championship history, Canada and USA will face off in the gold medal game. Get ready for the matchup by looking back at some of the rivalry’s most memorable moments.
No matter the final score or outcome of Thursday’s gold medal game between Canada and USA, there will likely be at least one or two moments that are replayed for years to come to highlight the bitter rivalry between the two countries at the World Junior Championship.
The gold medal game will mark the fourth time in the tournament’s history that Canada and USA meet in the final. The big stage is likely to produce an even greater game than the 3-1 round robin contest between the two teams, too.
As it stands, USA holds the edge in gold medal game victories over their Canadian rivals. The Americans have won the last two meetings, picking up gold at the 2004 and 2010 world juniors while Canada was left with silver, with Canada’s lone victory over USA in the tournament final coming 20 years ago at the 1997 tournament.
From milestone victories to heartbreaking errors, here are five of the most memorable moments from the Canada-USA world junior rivalry:
5. Canada completes ‘Drive for Five’
Canada was as dominant as any team in World Junior Championship history in the mid-1990s, and it was capped with the Canadians chasing their fifth-straight gold medal at the 1997 tournament. Since the tournament became an official event in 1977, no team had accomplished the feat of winning five-straight golds, with the Soviet Union the only other team to capture four straight.
Canada came up against a dominant US squad in the final that they had tied 4-4 during round robin play, but netminder Marc Denis blanked the Americans in the final with Boyd Devereaux netting the game-winning goal midway through the second period.
Footage of the game is hard to come by, but this intro from TSN, featuring a young Mike Babcock, is well worth your time:
4. John Tavares sparks Canadian comeback
The only player who has scored more goals for Canada at the world juniors than John Tavares is Jordan Eberle. And while Eberle became best known for his almost unthinkably clutch scoring ability, it was Tavares who sparked one of the most thrilling comebacks in the history of the Canada-USA rivalry at the tournament.
The New Year’s Eve meeting between the two sides looked like it was nearing a blowout when USA took a 3-0 lead, but Tavares scored with roughly five minutes remaining in the first to bring the score to 3-1. Less than a minute later, Tavares dazzled with his second of the game:
3. John Carlson crushes Canada’s chase for six-straight golds
The original ‘Drive for Five’ was completed in 1997, but Canada managed to capture five-consecutive world junior titles for a second time between 2005 and 2009. And in 2010, they were in position to set a new mark with a gold medal matchup against the US with a sixth-straight gold medal on the line.
The game started as a back-and-forth affair. Canada took an early lead, surrendered it midway through the first period and by the end of the frame the teams were locked at 2-2. In the second, John Carlson netted a power play tally to put the US ahead for a second time only for Canada to answer back minutes later. Two goals early in the third had USA appearing to be in total control before Jordan Eberle pulled off late-game heroics with two goals in the final three minutes of the period to send the outing to overtime.
In overtime, it was Carlson who delivered the dagger:
2. Marc-Andre Fleury’s heartbreaking gaffe
John Carlson’s overtime goal ended Canada’s chase for six-straight gold medals, but the Canadians may have already reached the mark were it not for the speed of Patrick O’Sullivan in the gold medal game in 2004.
In a play that few can forget, O’Sullivan was sprung on a partial breakaway with roughly five minutes remaining in the contest but mishandled the puck, giving Canadian netminder Marc-Andre Fleury the chance to knock the puck away. Fleury did manage to get to the puck first, but his clearing attempt ricocheted off of Canadian defenseman Braydon Coburn and into the net.
The own-goal, caused by O’Sullivan’s pressure, led the Americans to their first World Junior Championship gold:
1. Jonathan Toews’ spectacular shootout performance
International hockey rules allow for repeat shooters in the shootout, and that has led to some spectacular moments in USA hockey history.
The first was T.J. Oshie’s incredible performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he went four-for-six en route to giving the Americans a nail-biting round robin victory over the host Russians. Troy Terry has since followed suit — and at this year’s world juniors, no less — with a three-for-three performance against, you guessed it, Russia to send the US to the gold medal game.
But that same shootout rule has haunted the Americans, too. In the semifinal of the 2007 World Junior Championship, with Canada squaring off against USA, Jonathan Toews was sent out three times in the shootout and scored on three different moves to send Canada to the gold medal game:
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