There's no question that the now completed World Junior Championships had some amazing moments ranging from goals, saves, controversy, disappointments and utter joy. So many in fact that narrowing it down to 5 might be pretty tough to do but here's a list of memories that will last for me.
5. Jaroslav Janus VS USA
TSN's Pierre McGuire called it "Slovakia's 1980" comparing it to the Miracle on Ice from the Olympics where American college kids beat the juggernaut Soviet Red Army team. I wouldn't go that far, especially since Slovakia does have a World Hockey Championship to their credit, but the upset win over USA in this tournament was definitely memorable.
But let's be honest here; the only reason USA didn't crush the Slovaks was because of the unbelievable performance of netminder Jaroslav Janus. Tomas Tatar was fun to watch (not a big fan of the showboating but the skill is obvious) and Milan Kytnar represented the Oilers well but it was the Janus Show that got Slovakia past USA.
4. Dustin Tokarski VS Colin Wilson
At one point during the epic New Year's Eve match between Canada and USA the teams had scored on half of the shots they'd taken. It wasn't a very good game for either Dustin Tokarski or Thomas McCollum for the first 30 minutes. However, the difference in the contest, and arguably the tournament, is that Tokarski eventually found his game while McCollum never did.
The Spokane Chiefs rode 'Tick' to a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup title last year so the Saskatchewan kid had proven himself in big games. That's why he got the nod against the Americans and when he made this ridiculous steal against Colin Wilson you knew he'd be Pat Quinn's guy the rest of the way.
3. John Tavares VS USA
It was a wildly entertaining game between USA and Canada but it certainly got off to a rocky start for the home fans. Down 3-0 it wasn't looking good for Canada, especially because of how well the Americans had been playing in the tournament up to that point. Canada hadn't faced any adversity coming into the game and I made the prediction on TPS the night before that the Americans would win on New Year's Eve.
When John Tavares scored the first Canadian goal and the fans erupted you had to have gotten the sense that the game was far from over. What makes this next goal clip so key is that not only is the goal and absolute beauty but it came immediately on the heels of last one. Momentum immediately shifted completely in Canada's direction and with the added adrenaline thanks to the melee at the benches, it seemed like just a matter of time before Canada would even the score.
2. Mattias Tedenby VS Slovakia
He's tiny but he's as shifty and skilled as they come. The New Jersey Devils get heaps of praise for their record at the NHL draft, more than I think they deserve, but they had to have been smiling when they saw Tedenby deke his way through the entire Slovak team and the marching band on the field to set up this one. In the running for my Goal of the Tournament:
1. Jordan Eberle VS Russia
I don't think there is any doubt about it but the semi-final game between Canada and Russia will go down in history as one of the most memorable and entertaining ones in WJC history. It's definitely on par with the CAN/USA shootout in 2007 but I'm not sure if history will rank it above or below the CAN/RUS thriller of 1991.
A see-saw battle between traditional hockey rivals, Canada and Russia waged an exciting tug-of-war on ice that seemed to be over when Dmitri Klopov scored to put Russia ahead 5-4 with just over two minutes to play. What ensued was a frantic attempt by Canada to even ths score and a costly error by Russian forward Nikita Klyukin to go for the empty net that set up the last 30 seconds of the game...
Despite Pierre McGuire labelling the goal as "Tavares' Magical Play', I agree with my co-host Dean Millard who says that it was Ryan Ellis who deserves way more credit for his job in keeping in the clearing attempt of Nikita Filatov. The shootout would follow with goals by Tavares and Eberle but I'll remember the shootout for one other reason: The inexcusable decision by Russian head coach Sergei Nemchinov to not use his most talented player. We see it in the NHL all the time, coaches like Craig MacTavish waiting until the 3rd shooter to use their best player (Ales Hemsky) and in Nemchinov's case it came back to bite him in the ass.
This picture sums it all up for me as I try to imagine the thoughts going through Filatov's head as he lays on the ice. Is he thinking about his failed clearing attempt with 20 seconds to go? Is he wondering, like Gretzky in 1998, how he doesn't get a chance in the shootout? I wonder....
A fantastic WJC that set a new attendance record and captured the attention of the junior hockey world for 31 games. I'm already looking forward to Saskatoon and Regina next year!