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12 Days of World Juniors: Day 9 - Akil Thomas and Canada's gold medal comeback, 2020 Ostrava

(Andrew Yang/The Intermission)

By: Evan Brown

2020 hasn’t been the best year to say the least, but for Canadians it started in a golden way. On Jan. 5, 2020, in Ostrava, Czech Republic, Canada and Russia faced off in a memorable gold medal game

After a scoreless first period, the Russians opened the scoring halfway through the second off the stick of Yegor Zamula. Both teams would score another three minutes apart, Dylan Cozens for Canada and Grigori Denisenko for Russia. The Russians entered the third period up 2-1.

8:46 into the third, Maxim Sorkin put Russia up 3-1 , giving them extra insurance against Canada’s high-flying offense. The game was far from over though. Just under a minute later, Connor McMichael would put Canada back into the game making it 3-2.

Just two minutes after, Russia took their sixth penalty of the game. It didn’t take long for Canada to capitalize. 10 seconds of the man-advantage had elapsed when Captain Barrett Hayton tied the game at three all. Calen Addison and Alexis Lafreniere got the helper's on Hayton’s goal.

With four minutes to play, Canadian coach Dale Hunter rolled the dice going with his fourth line on a hunch. His hunch was that Akil Thomas, three days after his 20th birthday, would do something special. Hunter nailed it. With 3:58 remaining in the third, Thomas broke towards the net after a bank pass snuck past the Russian defence. Collecting the puck just before the goalie could play it, Thomas flipped it to his other hand and roofed a backhander while falling into the crease. Canada went up by one late in regulation. The scene in the Ostrava could only be described as pandemonium, the Canadian crowd ecstatic.

Now down 4-3 after blowing a two-goal lead, Russia was getting desperate. They would take two more penalties before the game was done in a last-ditch effort to make up for their errors. This game wasn’t without a bit of controversy however.

With just under two minutes to play, Canada’s Bowen Byram had the puck beneath the goalline and tried to clear it high off the boards. Byram hit a camera overlooking centre ice along the top of the boards that was out of play. The Russians were calling for a delay of game penalty. They refs decided that the camera was technically in play so Canada wouldn’t receive a penalty. And with a little help from a TSN camera, time would run out and Canada won their 18th gold in one of the best comebacks in World Juniors history!


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