The World Cup of Hockey Hits Toronto
October 25, 2016
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By Brendan Jordan
The event that all hockey fans have been waiting for, the World Cup of Hockey. The international tournament that has been around since the 1996 season returns 20 years later.
The NHL offseason came to an end a little bit earlier than normal as the World Cup of Hockey tournament made its return to the city of Toronto, Canada. This year, the tournament debuted some new and quite interesting teams. The tournament featured two new teams: Team North America and Team Europe. Team North America, consisting of players from both an American and a Canadian nationality, only consisted of players 23 years old or younger, giving them the nickname “The Young Guns.” Team Europe, on the other hand, did not have an age limit, but instead consisted of players in all European countries other than Finland, Sweden, and Russia. Other than those two new teams, this year’s tournament is featuring Team Canada (who’s hosting the tournament), Team USA, Team Czech Republic, Team Finland, Team Russia, and Team Sweden.
The games got underway on Sept. 8, with Team Russia and Team Czech Republic facing off at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Since there were only three tournament games that actually counted (not including the other three pre-tournament games), there were a few teams that were quickly eliminated from the tournament, including, unfortunately, Team USA, who was eliminated after three consecutive losses to Team Europe, Team Canada, and Team Czech Republic.
However, Americans were hopeful for Team North America to advance. In North America’s last game of the tournament, they faced off against Team Sweden, featuring goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and two current Colorado Avalanche players in Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg.
This game had to have been the biggest nail-biter of the whole tournament, as both teams went back and forth lighting the goal lamp and putting goals on the scoreboard. After a five goal first period, with the score being 3-2 in Team North America’s favor, Team Sweden came back in the third period when forward Patrik Berglund of the St. Louis Blues scored the game tying goal with a little over eight minutes left in regulation. The game was sent to an extremely stressful, hectic, heart-attack-giving overtime period. Finally, after four minutes and eleven seconds of overtime hockey, one of the best one-on-one goals I’ve ever seen was created on the ice. Colorado Avalanche forward, Nathan MacKinnon, put a move on Henrik Lundqvist, consisting of two shot fakes and a drag of the puck around the extending body of Lundqvist, to lift the puck up and over the Lundqvist’s leg pad to seal the heartwarming victory for Team North America.
However, the fate of Team Sweden and Team North America rested in the hands of Team Finland and Team Russia, as the winner of that game would determine who would play in the semi-final game. Team Russia, backed by Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, brought the game to Team Finland, defeating them by a score of 3-0 and securing them and Team Sweden a spot in the semi-final round.
Team Canada would face Team Russia in one semi-final round and Team Sweden would face Team Europe in the other semi-final round. The winners of these games would play each other in the championship round.
Team Canada, being the biggest ice hockey powerhouse of the world was definitely expected to take the win over Team Russia, despite the fantastic goaltending of Sergei Bobrovsky. Of course, Canada met up to their expectations, defeating Bobrovsky and Team Russia by a score of 5-3 to send themselves off to the championship round.
However, the semi’s game between Team Sweden and Team Europe was a completely different story. No team really had the advantage over the other, but the surprise came to hockey fans to hear that Team Europe had made the semi-final round. Team Europe, featuring players such as Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar and New York Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halák, were considered the underdog team in this tournament. As a shock to all, Team Europe defeated Team Sweden in overtime, as Tomas Tatar had the game tying and game winning goals to secure them a spot in the finals with a 3-2 win.
Team Canada vs Team Europe. Would Team Europe dethrone the international king of ice hockey? Or would Team Canada take control of their weaker opponents to take home the World Cup? The best-of-three series began on Sept. 27 as the Air Canada Centre filled with red in support of Team Canada.
After the first period of play, Team Canada had a controlling lead over Team Europe, as forwards Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning had both scored goals to give Team Canada a 2-0 lead. Team Europe looked a bit more in control of their game in the second period, as forward Tomas Tatar had scored the lone goal to put a little more pressure on Team Canada, making the score 2-1. However, Team Canada took control once again in the third period, as Brad Marchand would score his second goal of the game to secure a 3-1 victory in game one of the best-of-three final series.
Game two of the best-of-three series took place on Sept. 29, which held high hopes for Team Canada, as they could take home the championship victory with a win. Team Europe, however, took control of a large majority of the game as Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara scored a goal at the 14-minute mark of the first period. Team Europe relied on their defense and Halák, their goaltender, to contain their lead and keep Team Canada from changing the score. First period: one goal. Second period: no goals. Now onto the dramatic third period of play, where Team Canada had to give it their all to come back in the game.
Team Europe continued to utilize their defensive tactics to prevent Team Canada from changing the score. However, the last five minutes of the game, Team Canada controlled the game. With 2:53 left in the third period, forward Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins deflected a shot from defenseman Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks into the net to tie the game at a score a 1-1.
Team Canada, having momentum after scoring the game-tying goal, just continued to hammer pucks on Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Halák in an attempt to tie the game. After the puck was cleared out of the Team Europe defensive end, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews and Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand skated a two-on-two into the zone. Toews carried the puck across the zone, faked a shot, and dropped the puck back for Brad Marchand. With a wide open net, Marchand shot the puck into the goal with 43 seconds left in regulation to put Team Canada up 2-1 towards the last moments of the third period. Team Canada held onto their narrow lead for the last few seconds of the third period to secure them the rights of hoisting the World Cup.
This tournament brought hockey fans so much to watch. From the two new teams, to the nail-biting last second victories, Toronto hosted a World Cup of Hockey that won’t be forgotten anytime soon, as Team Canada walks away with another championship.