Canada is golden at the under-18 men’s hockey championship after another strong performance from two of the youngest players at the tournament.
Led by 17-year-old captain Shane Wright and 15-year-old Connor Bedard, the Canadians beat Russia 5-3 on Thursday in the championship game, going undefeated along the way.
Wright had two goals and an assist while Bedard added a goal and a helper.
“This win means the world to me. It means the world to all of my teammates, our coaches and staff, and the entire country,” said Wright.
“I could not be more proud of all the work that everyone has put in, how hard everyone has pushed and all the sacrifices we have made to get to this point. I am so happy for all the guys in our locker-room.”
Brennan Othmann and Logan Stankoven also scored for Canada.
Benjamin Gaudreau made 31 saves and was named top goaltender at the 10-nation event.
“Tonight’s game was really exciting to be a part of. The last minute of the game felt longer than the rest of the game, so it seemed like it took a little while for the clock to finally hit zero,” said Gaudreau.
“Once (Wright) put the icing on the cake with 40 seconds to play, the reality set in that we won. It was a huge win for us and it’s hard to describe the feeling, but we could not have done it with a better group of guys.”
Wright and Bedard – two of only seven players in Canadian Hockey League history to be granted exceptional player status to join major junior a year early – finished 2-3 in tournament scoring behind Russia’s Matvei Michkov.
Wright ended the tournament with nine goals and 14 points in only five games – scoring at least a goal in each contest. Bedard wrapped up the event with seven goals and 14 points in seven games.
Twenty-one of Canada’s 24 players were born in 2003, with only Wright and Denton Mateychuk born in ’04. Bedard is an ’05 birthday and doesn’t turn 16 until the summer.
The Canadians have now won the tournament four times, with their last gold medal coming back in 2013 when led by current Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was also playing as a 15-year-old.
Michkov paced Russia with a goal and two helpers to finish with 12 goals and 16 points in seven games.
Dmitri Buchelnikov and Vladimir Grudinin rounded out the Russian offence, while Sergei Ivanov stopped 29-of-33 shots.
Canada scored 51 goals while only giving up 12 in its seven games and dominated right from puck drop, beating the defending gold medallists from Sweden 12-1 in its tournament opener, and again 8-1 in the semi-finals.
Earlier Thursday, the Swedes downed Finland 8-0 for bronze.