Canada takes home the gold for the second time in four years
The great white north reclaims top spot in the U20 hockey world
By Sajan Jabbal, Contributor
The 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) under-20 World Junior Hockey Championship took place in snowy Buffalo, New York from Dec. 26, 2017 – Jan. 6, 2018 in which Canada picked up its sixth gold medal in the past nine years.
The World Juniors are an annual event that is organized by the IIHF, in which the best junior players from around the world represent their country.
The main entertainment in this tournament is the opportunity to see the future of the NHL.
Prospects all over the world looking to get boost their draft rankings leading up towards the summer’s NHL draft. Other players who are already drafted look to give their NHL teams a reason to put them in the roster and get over the hump of being a final cut to the main roster.
This was the year where these prospects really showed off their skills.
Projected to be the number one draft pick 17-year-old Rasmus Dahlin of Sweden stole the show with his slick hands that made jaws drop night in and out. Other young men like American forward Brady Tkachuk (brother of Calgary’s Matthew) and his stacked U.S.A team played fantastic hockey but got stopped by Dalhin’s overpowering squad in the semifinals.
They defeated a surging and motivated Czech Republic in the bronze medal game.
Czech player Filip Zadina was another honorable mention who carried his team with his skill despite being on an underdog team that lost to Canada in the semifinals. The Czech ousted the Russians on opening day and defeated Finland in the quarterfinals before getting eliminated and dropping the bronze medal game to hosts America.
Projected number one pick and Swedish defenseman, Dahlin, played like a man amongst boys. The 17-year-old was on the top defensive line and picked up five points and had a plus seven rating.
Hometown boy Casey Mittelstadt was a sight to see for the Buffalo Sabres fans. The American led the tournament in scoring, with four goals and 10 points, something that the Sabres hope to continue going into next year’s training camp.
As far as Flames fans, Canada captain Dillon Dube had a good tournament, having plenty of ice time and responsibility on the first line. He picked up two goals and four points, as the leader of the gold medal winning team.
Other Flames prospects in the tournament include Slovakia’s Adam Ruzicka, America’s Adam Fox and recently drafted Finnish defenceman Juuso Valimaki.
Gold medal for Canada
This year, Canada was able to come away with the gold medal, for the second time in just four years.
The era of Canadian hockey is once again flourishing. Team Canada was able to become victorious after not even being projected to make it to the finals.
The standout play from Canadian goalie Carter Hart along with the shutdown defensive line of Victor Mete and Connor Timmins was too much for the Czechs and the Swedes to handle. Not to mention the onslaught of scoring they got from Cale Makar, Jordan Kyrou and Sam Steel.
But it was the heroics of bench player Tyler Steenbergen who scored the late third period goal in the final which lifted Canada over Sweden in the gold medal game.
Steenbergen was not a big player in this tournament, having the least amount of ice time than any other Canadian player. But he had an opportunity in the gold medal game to pick up some extra minutes, and took full advantage with his gold medal winning goal.
Historic outdoor game
The Attendance at the tournament was not great this year. The only game that seemed even remotely busy was the gold medal game with 17,544. Even in the semifinal game with USA against Sweden, there was just over 6,000 people.
Not as much people from eastern Canada made the trip down south and many people did not buy tickets due to the weather conditions in Buffalo.
But one of the most historic games ever was played in this tournament. The snowy outdoor game that took place at the home of the Buffalo Bills featuring a treat between Canada and America.
It was a fantastic game in a fantastic environment, with the attendance hitting over 44,000. The Americans came back after losing throughout the game, to win 4-3 in shootout.
Although this tournament did have its ups and down, it showed us the future stars of the NHL and gave us great entertainment to the end, where our Canadian boys were able to take home the gold.