Fans of the game were treated to two exciting hockey games yesterday, with Gold, Silver and Bronze medals on the line. The Jackets had one prospect remaining- Dillon Heatherington for Canada.
Bronze Medal Game - Sweden vs. Slovakia
This one was a mismatch on paper, but Slovakia didn't get the memo. By the 3:22 mark of the first period, they had already potted a pair of quick goals to take a 2-0 lead. William Nylander would score midway through the period, and Jens Looke tied the game later in the first period. The second period was scoreless, despite three powerplay opportunities for Slovakia. The tide turned when at the end of the second period, Swedish defenseman Julius Bergman crosschecked Patrik Koys in the jaw- Bergman was handed a five minute major to start the third period.
It took a few minutes to get set up, but eventually the Slovaks broke through on the major, with Pavol Skalicky giving his team the lead. Slovakia would pot an empty-netter in the final minute, fittingly off the stick of Koys, to ice the game and win the Bronze medal.
It was just the second medal ever for Slovakia at this tournament. Denis Godla was later named top goaltender in the tournament.
Gold Medal Game - Canada vs. Russia
Boy, did this game live up to the hype. At first it seemed this game would be a laugher, with Canada scoring just 23 seconds into the game. The AIr Canada Centre was booming, and the Canadians were clearly boosted by the crowd. The energy was palpable. Just two minutes later, Canada scored again off the stick of Nick Paul. Russia cut the lead in half midway through the period. The second period started off a bit slower, with the players relaxing a bit after such an exciting start to the game. Canada scored three goals in the first half of the second period to go up 5-1.
Canadian fans were not comfortable despite the four-goal lead. There were memories of 2011, when in the Gold medal game Canada was leading 3-0, before Russia stormed back late to win 5-3 and steal the Gold.
Sure enough, Russia mounted a comeback. Starting with Ivan Barbashev's goal at 10:30 of the second, Russia potted three quick ones to cut the lead to 5-4.
The third period was some of the best hockey I've ever seen. The whistles were hidden, the pace was frenetic, and the hockey was pure. The teams traded chances, but the goaltenders were terrific. Russia pulled their goalie with 90s left, but Canada held on to win the Gold, their first since 2009.
The Columbus Blue Jackets prospects showed well in this tournament, especially Oliver Bjorkstrand of Denmark. He was an offensive force for the upstart Danes, the tournament sweetheart. He finished the tournament with 4-1-5 in five games and was named one of Denmark's top three players in the tournament.
Sonny Milano finished with 2-2-4 in five games, and was a constant offensive threat for the disappointing American squad. Milano showed that he needs to round out his game, but his abilities with the puck are astounding.
Ryan Collins was the seventh defenseman for the US, and though at times he looked a bit shaky, his defense-first play was solid. He'll never be a highlight-reel player, but he's reliable.
Dillon Heatherington now has a shiny Gold Medal to hang on his mantle. He was rock-solid in a shutdown role, also covering for his offensive-minded partner Joe Hicketts on Canada'a third pairing.
Net year's tournament will be hosted by Finland.