Hoser heaven

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The marquee matchup turned into the Romp at The Ralph.

Team Canada didn't defeat the Russians here last night, they embarrassed them, and in the process went a long way to erasing all those ghosts from world juniors past.

This was supposed to be another marquee, edge-of-your-seat, yell-your-guts-out World Junior Hockey Championship final -- Canada-Russia, down to the wire, like it always is.

They got the yell-your-guts-out part right, but that's about it.

A crowd of 11,862, the first sellout of the tournament, turned the pristine Ralph Engelstad Arena into hoser heaven, and 20 teenagers rewarded them with the country's first gold medal since 1997.

The slaughter began 51 seconds into the game, when Regina's Ryan Getzlaf opened the scoring, and it didn't end until it was 6-1, Canada.

They told us this would be the best Canadian team in at least a decade, knee-deep in talent, solid as rock on defence and dripping with character.

But nobody could have expected this.

A round robin in which Canada outscored its opposition 32-5 was one thing. A semifinal in which a talented Czech team managed just 11 shots on goal was another.

But to dominate a Russian team led by future NHL stars like Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin?

To score six goals by the end of the second period, chase one goalie and make another wish he hadn't got out of bed in the morning?

This was obviously personal.

"Nothing is better than beating the Russians," Winnipeg's Nigel Dawes said. "They're so cocky. It was time to not just win, but beat them good."

This one was for the '99 team in Winnipeg, which lost a heartbreaking final in overtime to the Russians.

It was for the '02 team, which twice blew two-goal leads in the Czech Republic in the gold-medal game against the Russians.

And it was for the team in Halifax a year later, which lost another final to you-know-you.

Heck, this was even for last year's team, 12 of whom obviously hadn't forgotten how they blew a two-goal lead in the third period against the Yanks.

Keep the foot on the gas pedal, was head coach Brent Sutter's mantra throughout, and boy, did they deliver.

From the opening faceoff, the Canucks steered straight into every Russian they could find, and by midway through the second period, you could tell where this thing was headed.

Look over there, and you'd see the kid from Cole Harbour, Sidney Crosby, knocking Ovechkin off the puck. Down in the corner, Kenora's Michael Richards is running someone through the boards.

Meanwhile, Quebec's Patrice Bergeron, London's Jeff Carter and Scarborough's Anthony Stewart were padding the lead.

The Russian Bear was little more than a teddy on this day, its stuffing ripped out and strewn across the ice.

By the end of it all, Ovechkin's right arm was in a sling, and Canada's gold medal was in the bag.

"It's nice to finally kind of stick it to them," forward Corey Perry said. "It's nice to show them how hockey is played."

Instead of finding out how Canada would deal with adversity, we found out that if you're this good, you don't have to.

The man with the most to prove may have been goalie Jeff Glass, but the only time Glass wobbled was when he was jumped by frenzied teammates and buried under a pile of red and white as the final buzzer sounded.

We know this: The Ralph has never been shaken the way it was at that moment.

"A home crowd, pretty much," said captain Michael Richards.

It was as if every Canadian watching at home -- probably between three and four million -- somehow got in on the celebration.

And most in the arena joined the players in a rousing rendition of the national anthem after the medals were safely around their necks.

O Canada! indeed.


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