Dust off your party shoes and break out your Canada-themed beer (no endorsements here), because Team Canada just beat the Russians 4-2 in the gold medal game at Leksand-Mora, Sweden to win the 2007 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship!
With goals by four different players, including Woodbridge’s own Andrew Cogliano, Canada’s decisive win sealed their third straight World Junior Championship, and their first in almost a decade not won on North American soil. The win in the gold medal game was also their 18th straight game won in the world junior tournament, and they tied their own record, set last year, by allowing only six goals through the entire tournament. On top of it all, Carey Price, Canada’s number one goaltender, was named both top goalie in the tournament, and tournament MVP.
Since there are any number of media sources available for recaps of the gold-medal game and the tournament in general, written by people who were actually in attendance at the games, Torontoist thought it would be nice to profile the five GTA-bred players, and detail their contributions to Canada’s third straight Junior Gold. So, in alphabetical order:
Andrew Cogliano – Woodbridge: Selected 25th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2005 NHL entry draft, Cogliano is playing in his second World Junior Hockey Championship. One of three players on the 2007 team to have been selected out of US college hockey (University of Michigan Wolverines in his case), as opposed to the more traditional route of being selected from a CHL major junior team. Had a fairly slow tournament points-wise, with only two assists through Canada’s semi-final shootout win over the United States on Wednesday, but players who win games don’t always do so on the stat sheet. With solid two-way play he was named Canadian player-of-the-game twice by the tournament. He also got Canada off to a quick start in the gold medal game, opening the scoring against Russia 15 minutes into the first period.
Steve Downie – Newmarket/Queensville: Selected 29th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2005 NHL entry draft, Downie is one of the best, and most controversial players on the Canadian junior team. Canada’s best player in the 2006 tournament, he’s been dubbed The Mouth That Scored by the Toronto Star after scoring that tournament’s gold-medal-winning goal. Downie overcame controversy after being traded in 2004 from Windsor to Peterborough following a hazing incident and on-ice altercations with a teammate. He’s also become famous recently for being an incredibly bad guitar player , but has since received encouragement from Tragically Hip singer Gord Downie (no relation) to keep trying. From the look of it though (three goals, four assists through six games in this tournament), he won’t need to quit his day job.
Sam Gagner – Oakville: Born in Minneapolis while his father Dave was playing for the North Stars, Gagner was raised in Oakville, and currently plays for the London Knights of the OHL. With 63 points in 29 games for the Knights this season, he’s expected to be a top-ten pick in this year’s NHL entry draft. Second in OHL scoring, the 17-year-old Gagner was kept off the scoresheet for the 2007 world junior tournament, mainly because he was asked to accept a lesser, checking-line role on a team rich with talent at his centre position. Expect to see him back on Team Canada next year to help defend his gold medal.
James Neal – Whitby: A second-round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2005 NHL entry draft, Neal played primarily a checking role on Team Canada this year. Neal didn’t have any points through the tournament, but was a strong defensive presence when he played.
Ryan O’Marra – Mississauga: Born in Tokyo and raised in Mississauga, O’Marra was the 15th overall pick by the New York Islanders in the 2005 NHL entry draft, and another returning player from last year’s world junior team. A strong, physical player, O’Marra was recently traded from the Erie Otters to the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL, and has 19 points in 20 games between the two teams. He had two assists through the 2007 world junior tournament, including one on Andrew Cogliano’s opening goal in the gold-medal game.
Gold medal photo courtesy of globeandmail.com, player pictures courtesy of tsn.ca