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Canada players celebrate Tyler Steenbergen's goal against Sweden during the gold-medal game of the World Junior Championship on Jan. 5, 2018.

Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Drink it in, Canada.

From a national perspective, there might not be much more to celebrate from an international hockey perspective as 2018 rolls along.

Pressed to the limit by a surprisingly plucky Swedish outfit, Canada dug deep to emerge with a 3-1 victory in Buffalo Friday night to capture the gold medal of the world junior hockey championship. It marked the 17th time that a gang of Canadian youngsters have stepped to the top of the podium at the tournament, which started play in 1977.

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And with Canada's top NHL players not participating in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea, it is quite likely the last such celebration the country's hockey fans can expect for some time.

The score was knotted at 1-1 through the first two periods at KeyBank Center on a frosty winter night. It was a well played, exciting affair worthy of a gold medal platform.

Both teams missed glorious opportunities to take the lead.

First it was Sweden's Jesper Sellgren, whose shot from the point rang off the post behind Canadian goaltender Carter Hart early in the third.

With Canada on the power play late in the frantic frame, it was Canadian Taylor Raddysh's turn to see his redirect at the side of the net ring off the iron.

And then, with one minute and 40 seconds left to go, little-used Tyler Steenbergen redirected a pass from the point in behind Swedish goaltender Filip Gustavsson for the winning goal.

With Gustavsson pulled for an extra attacker, Alex Formenton then iced the game with an empty netter that brought the final to 3-1.

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It was not the dream matchup many had been anticipating – Canada versus the United States in what would have been a rematch of last year's gold-medal tussle between the neighbouring countries.

The U.S. won that encounter 5-4 in a shootout, and the Americans were looking to repeat as the gold medalists for the first time in tournament history.

But the Swedes were able to sour that dream, defeating the host country 4-2 in one of Thursday's semi-finals. Canada prevailed in rather easy fashion in the other semi-final, steamrolling the Czech Republic 7-2.

The U.S. made amends in the bronze-medal game played earlier on Friday, crushing the Czechs 9-3 behind a four-goal effort by Trent Frederic, a draft choice of the Boston Bruins.

Seven players from the Canadian team that lost in that heartbreaking fashion to the U.S., along with head coach Dominque Ducharme, returned this year, intent on making amends.

"I think we're excited," Canadian team captain Dillon Dube, one of those returnees, told TSN prior to Friday's game. "Obviously there's going to be nerves, it's going to be the biggest stage lots of guys have played on. It's going to be fun to play in.

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"I think it's good if you're nervous – you're excited, you want to do well, and we have that chance to win here so it's nice."

Canada entered the final with a 5-0-1 record. The Canadians last basked in gold-medal glory in 2015 when the team was led by Connor McDavid.

The Swedes entered Friday's showdown with a flawless record of 6-0 and were hoping to claim what would be just their third gold medal of the tournament, their first since 2012.

The first period was a free-wheeling, evenly played affair with the goaltenders at both ends barring the door in a goalless frame.

Dube actually prodded one past Gustavsson during a goalmouth scramble with just under eight minutes left in the frame, but a quick whistle caused the goal to be disallowed.

The Swedes outshot Canada 15-9, and Hart had to be alert with about a minute left, making solid back-to-back saves on Fredrik Karlstrom and Lias Andersson.

Dube broke the stalemate early at the 1:49 mark of the second period on a pretty play that gave Canada a 1-0 lead.

Breaking out of the Canadian end, Jordan Kyrou threaded a nice lead pass to Dube, who zipped a great shot into the top corner over Gustavsson's glove hand while dragging a Swedish defender on his back.

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