MALMÖ – There are some pretty amazing facts which could be re-written as a result of who wins the bronze-medal game today between arch-rivals Canada and Russia.
For instance, Canada has never been out of the medals two straight years under the Program of Excellence, established by Hockey Canada in 1982.
In fact, since 1982 Canada has failed to win a medal only six times. Russia, too, has won a medal every year since 1982 excepting six occasions.
Here’s another fast fact: Since the IIHF adopted a playoff format for the World Junior Championship in 1996, Russia has a perfect 5-0 record in bronze-medal games.
Canada’s bronze record since ’96 is 3-1, the only blemish a loss to the Russians in overtime last year in Ufa.
“It’s a lot better going home with a medal than without a medal. I can tell you that from last year,” said Canada’s Griffin Reinhart after yesterday’s disheartening 5-1 loss to Finland. “You saw last year. After we lost the semi-finals, everyone was kind of down on themselves, hanging their heads, and feeling sorry for themselves. You can’t do that here.”
Reinhart is one of only three returning players along with forward Jonathan Drouin and goalie Jake Paterson.
Russia has five returnees, including two goalies, Andrei Vasilevski and Igor Ustinski, as well as Anton Slepyshev, Andrei Mironov, and Mikhail Grigorenko.
One player not here in Malmo is Valeri Nichushkin, who scored the overtime winner last year at the 1:35 mark. The 19-year-old is currently with the Dallas Stars in the NHL and having a fine rookie season.
Last year’s game was as exciting and thrilling a bronze game as one could hope to watch. Russia jumped into a 2-0 lead before the game was five minutes old, and by the end of the first period Canada had trimmed the lead to a single goal, 3-2. In the second period, Canada tied it 3-3, fell behind 4-3, and tied it again 4-4. In the third, the pattern repeated. Russia took an early 5-4 lead only to have a dogged Canadian team tie the game 5-5 midway through the period.
Andrei Makarov was the Russian goalie while Canada was plagued by weak goaltending from both Malcolm Subban, who was pulled less than eight minutes into the game, and backup Jordan Binnington, who also wasn’t particularly sharp.
Today, it will likely be Zachary Fucale starting for Canada and the experienced Vasilevski for the Russians.
Of course, the team that wins will be the one which is able to better recover from losing in the semi-finals yesterday. Russia lost a close game and was involved in a nasty ending after the game with Sweden; Canada was thoroughly outclassed by the Finns.
Both teams have a chance for redemption. One will go home with a medal, the other with the ignominy of having lost its last two games and finishing fourth, an impossible notion just two weeks ago.