Canada rallies to beat Russia 4-3, wins world juniors gold

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Finland’s Mikko Kokkonen, left, and Finland’s Justus Annunen, center, fail to stop Sweden’s Samuel Fagemo, right, from scoring his sides second goal during the U20 Ice Hockey Worlds bronze medal match between Finland and Sweden in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

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OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) — Akil Thomas scored the winning goal in the final period and Canada rallied from two goals down to beat Russia 4-3 in the final of the world junior hockey championship on Sunday.

It was the 18th title for Canada, the most successful team in the tournament.

Thomas backhanded the puck past goaltender Amir Miftakhov with 3:58 left for his only goal at the tournamentto avenge a 6-0 loss to Russia at their group stage game, the worst loss for Canada in the history of the tournament.

“I saw my defenseman get the puck and I saw he was going to put it up the wall and (Connor) McMichael kind of chipped it, and it found an opening,” Thomas said. “The puck was almost going to the goalie. I kind of panicked and brought it to my backhand and put it in.”

Dylan Cozens, McMichael and captain Barrett Hayton also scored for Canada. Goaltender Joel Hofer made 35 saves.

Nikita Alexandrov, Grigori Denisenko and Maxim Sorkin netted Russia’s goals.

The Canadians were looking to bounce back from a disappointing sixth-place finish last year when it hosted the event. They won the previous title in 2018 while Russia was seeking its first title since 2011.

It was the ninth final between the two rivals since the playoff system was introduced in 1996. Both teams had won four of them before their encounter on Sunday.

The Canadians were 3-1 down after Sorkin’s goal 8:46 into the final period. McMichael deflected a shot into the net with his leg and Hayton tied it at 3-3 on a power play with a wrist shot from the right circle, with the two goals coming in a span of 2:01.

McMichael added an assist and Calen Addison had three assists. Alexis Lafreniere, who is projected to be the No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, contributed two assists to finish the tournament with four goals and six assists from the five games he played. He was named the tournament’s MVP.

Alexandrov broke the goalless deadlock 9:37 into the the middle period, deflecting a shot by Yegor Zamula from the point on Russia’s power play.

Canada answered on a 5-3 advantage 1:24 later with Cozens netting on a rebound.

Denisenko restored Russia’s one-goal lead, pushing the puck under the pad of Hofer still in the frame.

Canada killed four power plays in the opening period and its PK proved effective again when Russia pulled Miftakhov for an extra attacker on another power play for a 6-4 advantage with 2:41 left in the third period.

Earlier, Samuel Fagemo scored his eighth goal to become the top scorer of the tournament and help Sweden beat defending champion Finland 3-2 and take bronze.

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