January 6, 2007
The winners, and still championsA world junior to remember for Toews and Team Canada
By TERRY KOSHAN
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 championship, so it was no surprise the Winnipeg native scored the winning goal yesterday in the gold-medal game against Russia -- a 4-2 Canada victory at Ejendals Arena.
Toews' shot to the top corner of the net during a power play capped a three-goal burst in the first period and the Canadians wound up with their third gold in a row, and first in Europe since 1997, when Christian Dube, Alyn McCauley and Boyd Devereaux led Canada in Switzerland.
"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 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."
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 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 allowed a mere seven goals in six games.
But they also will speak of coach Craig Hartsburg and his last-minute decision. With feeble scoring 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 was the first goal of the tourney from Cogliano, one that put Canada ahead 1-0 at 15:35 of the first. Less than two minutes later, Bryan Little got his first of the event. That led to Toews' score.
But Hartsburg, who could have the job again for the 2008 world junior in the Czech Republic if he wants it -- he begged off the question last night -- pointed directly at the players.
"I think 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 that seems to be engrained 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," Price said. "It has not hit me yet. Pretty surreal."