00:00 – As Canada’s National Junior Team prepared for puck drop on Jan. 5, 2015, the only team standing between it and its 16th gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship was Russia. The two sides were meeting for gold for the ninth time since 1995, and with each seeking a fifth world championship at the expense of its long-time rival, the gamesmanship began before the game did.
“[Anthony Duclair] and I liked to get the boys going – on and off the ice the boys would get a good laugh, so [we thought] let’s get the crowd into it right away. It set the tempo before the puck even dropped. We battled hard with the two Russians right off the face-off. Obviously, they didn’t like us too much and we didn’t like them too much, so we made that pretty clear.”
00:23 –Domi followed the puck below the goal line, then sent it out front to Duclair, who one-timed it top shelf to give Canada an incredibly early lead.
“To break the ice like that in a game that big, when there’s all that pressure, it’s definitely relieving. It really set the tone for the rest of the game.”
02:32 – Jake Virtanen sent a cross-ice pass to Brayden Point along the boards. Nick Paul tipped in Point’s centering pass on the fly, chasing Russian goalie Igor Shestyorkin after only six shots.
“There are a lot of emotions going through your body – it’s the biggest game we’ve played our entire lives, so to be up by two goals against a rival like Russia was huge. At the same time we looked at one another and said stay focused, it’s still a long game. Our coach [Benoit Groulx] did a great job of reeling us in and not [letting us] look too far ahead.”
25:08 – Dmitri Yudin got one back for Russia at the nine-minute mark to temper the atmosphere inside Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Then Josh Morrissey sprang Connor McDavid on a breakaway.
“We knew they were going to score goals and we knew we were going to score goals. When they scored we knew we had to come back and score another one. McDavid did a great job at taking over and that was a hell of a goal.”
27:22 –Domi’s wrist shot from the face-off circle draws an even louder roar.
“It’s a pretty big blur. I don’t even know how I got the puck – I came off the rush and just shot it. I didn’t even aim and it went in. It was a lucky one but it definitely felt good to get.”
32:30 – Sam Reinhart deflects Domi’s shot to give Canada a four-goal lead and 19,000 people reason to rise up and chant, “This is our house.”
“[Reinhart’s] probably one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with. He drove to the net like he usually does and I tried to throw it at the net for him to get a rebound. He beat their defender and tipped it in. You learn at a young age to stay calm and not get too far ahead of yourself. Hockey is a crazy sport and when you’re in a game like that anything can happen.”
37:37 – Ivan Barbashev, Sergei Tolchinski and Nikolai Goldobin score in a span of 3:16 and suddenly Canada’s lead is down to one.
“Your blood starts to boil a little bit – geez, boys, let’s get back to what we were doing. [Groulx] called a timeout and said, ‘hey, boys, I got something to say’ and he said this little phrase that we always made fun of him for. He said, ‘tic, tac, tao’ and we loved it and just went from there.”
42:00 – After regrouping during the second intermission, the team killed off Reinhart’s hooking penalty to start the third period.
“I think a couple of jokes were thrown around and the boys got the smiles back on their faces. When you’re having fun you’re more focused, so we made sure we were having fun and not getting too worried, or too high or too low. I think our penalty kill was outstanding the whole tournament. Every guy chimed in and made sure that was the strongest part of our game. It had to be at that point. We did a great job of buckling down. Good teams play with leads and we were able to sustain that.”
52:30 – Two minutes after Ilya Sorokin stopped a pair of scoring chances by the Domi-Reinhart-Duclair line, Nick Ritchie and Lawson Crouse get turned aside on a two-on-one.
“You look at it in a sense that we’re still in control of the game and we wanted to stay that way. The good thing was we were getting the chances and we weren’t falling off at all. That third period we looked to our seventh man – the crowd – and just fed off of them.”
59:56 – In a span of 1:28, Russia pulls its goaltender, Duclair’s shot at the empty net is blocked, Domi shoots wide right the length of the ice, Duclair shoots wide left and Canada must contend with three defensive zone face-offs.
“Hockey is a game of bounces and sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t. That’s all that happened there. You don’t look at the ones that didn’t [go your way]; you look at the ones that did and embrace that.”
60:00 – Canada wins 5-4 and a country that spent the past 20 minutes holding its collective breath finally exhales.
“It was the best feeling of my life by far. To enjoy it with all my teammates – after battling through the adversity of not winning gold for [a few] years we knew from the point when that team was named that we were the group to do it – it was extremely satisfying. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we made sure we embraced every second of it.”