Whitehorse’s Dylan Cozens and the rest of Team Canada are returning from the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship with gold following a 4-3 victory against Russia in the final on Jan. 5 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
The win was a redemption of sorts for Canada after losing 6-0 to Russia — Canada’s worst defeat at the tournament — in the group stage.
Things started slowly in the game, with the Canadians taking and subsequently killing off four penalties in the opening frame. Through 20 minutes, the game was scoreless with Russia outshooting Canada 10 to 7 in the first.
The game opened up in the second period when Russian Nikita Alexandrov beat Canadian goalie Joel Hofer on the power play to give Russia the lead 1-0 just under 10 minutes into the second period. Assists on the goal went to Yegor Zamula and Grigori Denisenko.
After Russia took two penalties simultaneously — Danil Zhuravlyov for slashing and Dmitri Voronkov for holding — it didn’t take long for Canada to equalize as Cozens found the back of the net with 8:59 left in the second to tie the game 1-1. Assists on the Cozens goal went to Joe Veleno and Alexis Lafreniere.
Russia quickly responded though, when Denisenko with just over five minutes left in the second to give the Russians a 2-1 lead. Assists on the goal went to Alexander Romanov and Yegor Sokolov.
The Russian lead grew again in the third period, when Maxim Sorkin scored with just over 11 minutes left to play to make it 3-1 for Russia.
Far from over, the game was back to a one-goal contest after Connor McMichael scored with 10 minutes and 40 seconds left to play, assisted by Calen Addison and Bowen Byram.
A Voronkov cross-checking penalty gave Canada another power play opportunity and captain Barrett Hayton wasted no time, scoring just 10 seconds into the man advantage to tie the game at 3-3. Assists on Hayton’s goal went to Addison and Lafreniere.
With the prospect of overtime looming, a game-winning goal for Canada came from a rather unlikely source as Akil Thomas scored with just under four minutes remaining to make the score 4-3.
The play started with Addison clearing his own zone with a slap pass along the boards as McMichael was able to deflect the puck past the Russian defence, allowing Thomas to burst in at speed and go forehand-backhand to beat the goalie.
The goal was Thomas’s first of the tournament and only his second point, but Thomas is no stranger to scoring as the Niagara Ice Dogs captain has 44 points in 27 Ontario Hockey League games this season.
Cozens finished the tournament with two goals and seven assists for nine points in seven games at the tournament, tied for third on Team Canada. Despite missing eight games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes due to the World Junior Championship, Cozens is still in the top 15 in Western Hockey League scoring.
Sweden defeated Finland 3-2 to win bronze. In the semifinals on Jan. 4, Canada defeated Finland 5-0 while Russia beat Sweden 5-4 in overtime.
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