The moment Team Canada dropped a 6-5 decision to the United States in last year's gold medal game at the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships, there was one thing on the players' and the nation of Canada’s minds—revenge.
It’s not often Canada loses a game at the WJHC, even rarer that they should lose a gold medal game, so Canada would have to be excused for hating their neighbors to the south.
Heading into the 2011 WJHC, the United States were prohibitive favorites to repeat as gold medal champions, a feat they had never accomplished at the WJHC.
On the other hand, Canada had defended its gold medal performance five times (2005-2009) coming into last year's final against the Americans, a feat Canada had accomplished on one other occasion (1993-1997).
While it’s never easy to win a World Junior Hockey Championship, one could argue that it is even tougher to defend the title.
So, with both nations tuned in for the rematch, it would be interesting to see how the Americans responded.
From the moment the puck dropped on Monday night's game, you just knew the Americans were in trouble. Canada dominated Team USA early on, leading to an early 1-0 lead courtesy of Canadian forward Curtis Hamilton at the 02:38 mark of the first period.
Hamilton’s goal was a sign of things to come for the Americans, as Canada would continue to dominate the U.S., culminating into a 2-0 lead by period's end.
Canada struck early in the second period when Ryan Johansen deposited the puck past American goaltender Jack Campbell, who, despite his heroics, could not stop the Canadians' attack.
At the other end, Canadian goaltender Mark Visentin was solid, making the big save when he had to and controlling the game with timely stoppages and tremendous puck control.
Canada would go up 4-0 on a beautiful goal from Zack Kassian, who slid the puck past Campbell at 06:02 of the third period, just moments after getting released from the penalty box.
The Americans would fight back to make it 4-1 on a goal from Chris Brown, but it was too little, too late, as Canada continued to dominate the rest of the way, never in danger of letting the Americans back in the game.
For Canada, it was one of the most complete games they have played at the tournament—maybe Canada’s best game ever?
Beaten on the ice, the Americans then had to listen as the noticeably pro-Canadian crowd proudly sang "O’ Canada", which resonated throughout the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York.
Simply put, the Americans were not prepared for the Canadians. They were absolutely dominated in every facet of the game, and were out-classed physically, mentally and where it mattered most—on the scoreboard.
Canada will now set its sights on Russia for a chance to take back the gold medal they lost to the Americans one year earlier in Saskatchewan.
Canada defeated the Russians 6-3 in the preliminary round. As good as Canada was on that night, they will have to be focused against a Russian squad, who, given their struggles over the past decade (Russia has not won gold since 2003) will be highly motivated against the Canadians.
Until next time,