TORONTO, CANADA - DECEMBER 30: Denmark players celebrate after defeating Switzerland 4-3 in a shootout during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Interesting contrasts between 2015, past WJCs
Looking back at recent World Junior history, there are some amazing contrasts that stand out between 2015 and previous tournaments.
Sometimes the changes were good. Sometimes they were painful.
But it all illustrates how rich and colourful this tournament’s brief history is, and why it has become a must-see for hockey fans worldwide over the holidays.
Here are a few examples.
For Russia, Canadian Icing Isn’t Sweet
2009: The previous time Canada won gold, it trailed Russia 5-4 late in the semi-final in Ottawa and coach Pat Quinn pulled goalie Dustin Tokarski for the extra attacker. Russian forward Dmitri Klopov shot at the empty net and was called for icing in the final minute. Jordan Eberle scored the miraculous tying goal with 5.4 seconds left. Canada went on to prevail in a shootout.
2015: When Canada won gold this time, Russia trailed 5-4 late in the final and coach Valeri Bragin pulled goalie Ilya Sorokin for the extra attacker. Canada iced the puck – not once but twice – in the final minute. However, there were no last-minute heroics for Russia as Canada hung on for the victory.
Danes Get It Right This Time
2012: Denmark’s return to the elite division for the first time since 2008 didn’t last long. The Danes allowed 10 or more goals in three of their round-robin losses in Alberta, and ended up relegated. Perhaps the low point came when five players were suspended by coach Todd Bjorkstand for fooling around at a mock press conference after their 10-2 defeat versus Canada.
2015: Newly promoted Denmark performed heroically to keep its place in the elite division for the first time ever. The Danes earned points in a shootout loss to Russia (3-2) and an overtime loss to the Czechs (4-3) before getting their first win ever versus Switzerland in another shootout (4-3). That put them into the quarter-finals, and their dressing room celebration was pure exuberance. Despite falling 8-0 to Canada in their last game, this squad featuring star forwards Nikolaj Ehlers and Oliver Bjorkstrand along with goalie Georg Sorensen made history with an eighth-place finish.
The Sorrows of Saros
2014: Finland’s Juuse Saros was the man of the hour. As his team’s starting goalie, he outdueled Canada’s Zach Fucale in a 5-1 semi-final win and then made 35 saves in a 3-2 overtime victory over host Sweden in the gold medal game in Malmo. No wonder the quick-moving 18-year-old from HPK Hameenlinna was named a tournament all-star.
2015: Saros never got his game in gear in Montreal. He wasn’t at his sharpest in group losses to Slovakia (2-1) or Canada (4-1). When the quarter-final against the archrival Swedes came up, Saros sat on the bench and watched Ville Husso suffer a 6-3 defeat that ended Finland’s reign as champs.
Why Godla Is a God
2013: The Slovaks finished in eighth place in Ufa, Russia under head coach Ernest Bokros. They allowed 33 goals in six games, their worst performance in World Junior history.
2015: Again under Bokros, Slovakia surprised everyone by winning the bronze medal for the first time since 1999. This time, thanks to the heroics of goalie Denis Godla (MVP, Best Goalie, tournament all-star), the Slovaks were significantly better defensively, allowing 21 goals in seven games.
Revving Up the Reinhart Factor
2013: In Ufa, Team Canada was disappointed when star defenceman Griffin Reinhart received a four-game suspension for hitting American forward Vincent Trocheck in the head with his stick during a 5-1 U.S. semi-final victory. The Canadians then lost 6-5 to the host Russians in the bronze medal game.
2015: In Toronto, not only did Sam Reinhart (Griffin’s younger brother) tally the eventual gold medal game-winning goal against Russia, but he also captured the scoring title (5-6-11) and was named to the tournament all-star team.
2006: Tie Domi, a longtime fan favourite with the Toronto Maple Leafs, retired from the NHL. He was best-known for using his hands for fisticuffs, as the 36-year-old finished with 3,515 penalty minutes, the third-highest in league history. He did not represent Canada in international competition.
2015: Max Domi, Tie’s offensively gifted son, shone in Toronto on January 5, earning a goal and an assist in dramatic fashion in Canada’s 5-4 win over Russia for gold. The younger Domi was also named Best Forward of the tournament.
Finland’s Fickle Power Play
2010: The Finns, featuring offensive leaders like Mikael Granlund and Sami Vatanen, tied Canada’s single-game record for power points (eight) in a 10-1 romp over Austria.
2015: Finland, which entered this tournament as the defending champs, experienced a total power outage. Coach Hannu Jortikka’s team was the only one that couldn't score a single goal with the man advantage, and that contributed to its demise.