On top of the world

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

The drought is dead.

Long live the 2005 Canadian junior hockey team.

In a performance so dominating it must have been a small surprise even to Canada's most ardent supporters, the hockey-mad nation climbed back to top of the junior hockey world with an 6-1 beating of Russia here last night at the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, N.D.

"It's an unbelievable feeling and you're never going to feel like this about something again," said forward Corey Perry, whose body check on Alexander Ovechkin on the game's first shift was the initial sign of the end for Russia."The team in that dressing room was committed right from Day 1. Guys from last year had that look in their eye that they wanted the gold medal."

Canada won its first gold at the world junior since 1997, breaking an eight-year absence from the top of the podium. The victory ended an astounding run at this tournament for Canada, as it finished with a 6-0 record and outscored its opponents 41-7. Only twice in previous years, in 1996 and 1995, did Canada not lose or tie at the world junior. People who know one end of a hockey stick from another will be talking about this team for years. Best Canadian junior team ever? Just look back at the past 10 days.

Canada and Russia had met three other times in the world junior final, with Russia winning all three by a goal. Last night's game won't go down as one of the classics between the two nations simply because Canada was far superior than its opponent.

PATRIOTIC CROWD

Spurred on by a wildly patriotic crowd of 11,862, Canada began its rush to gold early when Ryan Getzlaf scored on a slapshot just 51 seconds into the game. Danny Syvret scored before the period was over, a goal that was answered by Russia's Alexei Emelin. But four goals in the second period by Jeff Carter (who scored his 12th in his world junior career, tying Eric Lindros for first in Canadian history), Patrice Bergeron, Scarborough's Anthony Stewart and Dion Phaneuf put an end to any Russian hopes for a rally.

Ovechkin, who had said a couple of days ago that "Canada is not God" and heard derisive chants last night, was rendered useless early in the second period after suffering a shoulder injury. The line of Bergeron, who was named tournament MVP, Sidney Crosby and Perry hit Ovechkin at every turn.

Coach Brent Sutter's team barely made a mistake as it tore through the competition at the tournament, and though he lauded every player for coming together as one, he had special praise for Bergeron.

"His attitude was outstanding," Sutter said. "I have nothing but great things to say about him. I would like to thank the Boston Bruins for letting him come to play."

Bergeron, Carter, Phaneuf and Getzlaf, among others, probably would have been in the NHL if there was no lockout.

"Any time you see the guys, we're all going to have that special bond now," Getzlaf said. "This is the big one, the one we worked for the whole time. We're going to enjoy this for many years to come."


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