Canadians a cut above

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

LEKSAND, Sweden -- With swelling near his right eye and a scar under his nose from a cut earlier in the tournament, Jonathan Toews couldn't have looked more like the epitome of a Canadian hockey player.

Toews certainly set the bar for his teammates at the 2007 world junior championships, so it was no surprise the Winnipeg native scored the winning goal yesterday in Canada's 4-2 gold-medal victory over Russia at Ejendals Arena.

Toews' shot to the top corner of the net during a powerplay capped a three-goal burst in the first period as the Canadians wound up with their third gold in a row and first in Europe since 1997.

"It was a huge accomplishment for us to make it to this game first of all, let alone win it for the first time (in Europe) in 10 years," Toews said. "We worked so hard from Day 1. The scars I will have with me and this is something I will remember the rest of my life.

"This is huge right now. An unbelievable feeling."

When hockey historians recount the tale of the 2007 Canadian junior team, they will speak of goaltender Carey Price, a Montreal Canadiens prospect who was superb and was named the tournament's most valuable player; they will speak of Toews, Canada's best forward in all facets; and they will speak of a group of defensive stalwarts who teamed up to allow a mere seven goals in six games.

But they also will speak of coach Craig Hartsburg and his last-minute decision. Lacking punch from the majority of his forwards in the first five games, Hartsburg switched his top centres, putting Toews between Brad Marchand and Steve Downie, and dropping Andrew Cogliano to a line with Ryan O'Marra and Tommy Pyatt.

The result: The first goal of the tournament from Cogliano, a native of Woodbridge, Ont., one that put Canada ahead 1-0 at 15:35 of the first.

Less than two minutes later, Bryan Little of Cambridge,Ont., got his first of the event. That led to Toews' score.

But Hartsburg, who may be behind the bench again for the 2008 world juniors in the Czech Republic if he wants it (he begged off the question last night), gave all the credit to his players.

"People underestimate our talent and our hockey sense and all of those things," Hartsburg said. "In this tournament we have success because our kids care the most."

There it is, the hockey ingredient which seems to be ingrained in Canada's best teen hockey players. Ask the Americans, who had plenty of talent but went home with bronze, or the Russians, who have nothing but silver to show for the past three gold-medal games, what they think of that quality.

Price, who made 25 saves, including a heart-stopper on a breakaway by Anton Krysanov with Canada ahead 4-2 in the third period, was asked about the experience of winning gold.

"I can't put it into words right now," said Price, of Anahim Lake, B.C.. "It has not hit me yet. Pretty surreal."


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