MALMO, SWEDEN - Canada has made history at the 2014 world junior championship.
And no, it won’t be the kind that anyone on the roster will be bragging, tweeting or texting about.
For the first time since Hockey Canada started the Program of Excellence in 1982, Canada has finished without a medal in consecutive years at the world junior.
That was written in stone on Sunday when Canada lost 2-1 against Russia in the bronze-medal game before 10,713 at the Malmo Arena.
Last winter in Ufa, Russia, the end result was the same, only the score different as Russia won that game 6-5 in overtime.
“We’ll get through this,” defenceman Mathew Dumba said.
“It is not life or death. You are not losing a family member, you are not going through any hardships like that. It is a game. We can’t be too hard on ourselves. We played a good game. I think we deserved better. Just how the cards folded.”
Dumba had played with a heavy heart. His grandmother died in early December.
Less than 24 hours after getting crunched by Finland in the semifinal, the Canadians were flat initially against a Russian team that scored twice in the first period on goalie Zach Fucale.
Canada had its scoring chances, but it has been a long time since a game involving these two nations at the world junior mostly was devoid of emotion.
The Canadian players said the right things after the loss against Finland — that winning a bronze still meant something to them. Perhaps it did, but despite firing 31 shots at goalie Andrei Vasilevski, Canada scored just one goal.
One habit of coach Brent Sutter’s team was its inability to start quickly, and it got bit again by the first goal. Just once in the tournament, against Switzerland in the quarterfinal, did Canada score first.
Russia, like Finland a day before, got on the scoreboard thanks to a fluke.
Mikhail Grigorenko’s pass from the corner during a Russian power play missed its target and would have hit the side boards, but instead bounced past Fucale off the right skate of Dumba at 3:35 of the first.
Bo Horvat was in the box serving a hooking penalty when Grigorenko scored.
Russia’s second goal, at 14:38, came courtesy of a terrific shot off the stick of Eduard Gimatov. His shot rocketed to the top corner past Fucale before the goalie could react.
“We’re extremely disappointed,” Fucale said. “At Hockey Canada, we want to be the best, and we didn’t get it done this year.
“I think tonight we played a very good game. It was not good enough to win. We don’t want to make excuses. We just lost. We have to be better. Just tough to swallow right now.”
Vasilevski had a great game for Russia. He continuously denied the Jonathan Drouin line.
Canada managed to get a puck past him, but not until Morrissey tipped a shot into the net at 7:10 of the third.
“I’m happy we beat Canada again,” Grigorenko said. “It’s always a special feeling to beat a Canadian hockey team. They are a good team but we were a little bit better today.”
Canada’s overall inability to bear down helped kill its bronze-medal hopes. And penalty trouble interrupted any momentum Canada hoped to muster, mostly in the second period, when it took four minors.
Where were the highly skilled forwards that Canada had? In its final three games — the biggest games of the tournament — just three goals came from the forwards.
“Little too cute,” Curtis Lazar said. “We were trying to get the perfect passing play instead of just throwing pucks (at the net).”
In the bigger picture, we expected more intensity from a team coached by Sutter, never mind that it was the second-youngest Canada had entered in the event in its history.
No less than 11 players on the Canadian team are eligible to participate in the 2015 world junior in Toronto and Montreal.
The group includes Fucale, defencemen Aaron Ekblad, Josh Morrissey and Chris Bigras and forwards Jonathan Drouin, Frederik Gauthier, Horvat, Lazar, Connor McDavid, Nic Petan and Sam Reinhart.
McDavid is the only guarantee, of course, as he won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until June 2015. McDavid, who turns 17 on Jan. 13, spent large chunks of time nailed to the bench on Sunday.
With the others, anything is possible. Reinhart and Ekblad should be the top two picks in the draft, and depending on which team drafts them, could be in the NHL. Reinhart probably would not be ready in October, but Ekblad could have a shot.
ONLINE REACTION TO CANADA'S 2-1 LOSS TO RUSSIA
RECAP: TERRY KOSHAN'S LIVE COVERAGE OF THE GAME