Canada-USA World Junior Final Is the Matchup We All Wanted

These two hockey rivals will meet in the gold-medal game for the first time since a 2010 overtime classic.

Jan 5 2017, 8:18pm

Photo by Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Just as they have time and time again, Team Canada and USA delivered the championship matchup that everybody wanted.

The world's two junior hockey powerhouses will face off for the 2017 world junior hockey gold medal on Thursday night, and, if history is any indication, it's going to be another wild ride between the two storied hockey rivals.

Memorable games between USA and Canada litter the memories of hockey fans from both sides of the border, and the World Juniors have a special place in that. The nations have met for the gold medal three times in WJC history, with Team USA winning in 2004 and 2010, while Canada beat its southern neighbours in 1997.

Tonight is round four between the two nations and teams that are as close on paper in 2017 as they are on a globe. Two countries that have a long-standing history with each other at this tournament and are both coming off emotional wins in a couple of the most unorthodox semifinal games the WJC has ever hosted.

Troy Terry had a Jonathan Toews-like performance in Team USA's thrilling 4-3 shootout win over Russia on Wednesday. The Anaheim Ducks prospect, as Toews did in 2007, scored three goals in the shootout to lift his country to the gold-medal game in dramatic fashion. Terry took three of the last four shots of the shootout, putting it through the legs of Russian goaltender Ilya Samsonov on all three.

Goaltending was once again the focal issue for Team Canada, but this time it turned out alright as Canada beat the powerful Swedes 5-2. Carter Hart stopped all 28 shots he faced in relief over two and a half periods after starting goalie Connor Ingram was yanked just eight minutes into the game. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect came in with Canada trailing 2-1 and was perfect the rest of the way, while Canada's offence stepped up and scored four on the back of their netminder's inspirational performance off the bench.

Both Canada and Team USA are riding high off their crazy, emotional semifinal wins over Sweden and Russia, but it's the history between the neighbouring countries themselves at the tournament that all but guarantees tonight's tilt to be another classic.

2004 Gold Medal Game

Though the 2004 tournament in Finland was a coming out party for then 16-year-old Sidney Crosby, it was Marc-Andre Fleury who stole the show in a nightmarish way for Canada. After firing a puck up the middle in an attempt to clear, the 2003 first overall pick banked it right off the body of Team USA forward Patrick O'Sullivan with under six minutes remaining in the third. That goal held up as the winner, and likely, the flukiest gold medal-winning goal ever.

2007 Semifinals

In the 2007 semifinal game, Toews decided to make himself a legend before he even arrived to the NHL. Toews shot three times for Canada and scored them all, putting the puck by American goaltender Jeff Frazee three different ways. Another future Hall of Famer, goaltender Carey Price, stopped Peter Mueller on Team USA's final shot to lift Canada to its third straight gold-medal game.

2009 NYE Classic

The 2009 New Year's Eve game provided a classic between Canada and Team USA that was, well, just insane. After Canada found itself down 3-0 early, another Johnny T—John Tavares—took the team on his back while scoring a hat trick and leading Team Canada to a dramatic comeback win in front of a rabid hometown crowd in Ottawa.

2010 Gold Medal Game

Team USA busted Canada's streak of five straight World Junior golds as John Carlson beat goaltender Martin Jones in overtime to seal the 2010 championship for the Americans. After Jordan Eberle scored twice in the final three minutes of regulation to become Canada's all-time leading goal scorer in the tournament, Carlson spoiled the Canadians' bid for a record-setting sixth straight gold.

Canada, which has captured at least a bronze in each of the 12 times its hosted the tournament, has medalled three times since that bitter loss in 2010, winning just one gold in 2015, while capturing the silver in 2011 and bronze in 2012. Canada has a reputation of owning this tournament, but its done anything but that in recent years, and finished a disappointing sixth place in 2016.

The Americans, meanwhile, won bronze in 2011, took home the gold in 2013, and placed third in Finland last year.

Both rivals will once again medal in 2017, with the tournament's marquee matchup determining which colour those medals will be.