Canada-Russia gold medal matchup a clear-cut case of role reversal

Curtis Lazar (left) and Connor McDavid  (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

When Canada faces Russia tonight in the gold medal game for the 2015 World Junior Championship, it will mark one of those few times in this great rivalry that convention is turned on its ear.

Most times when Russia faces Canada in international competition, it comes into the game with a bunch of wildcard players who are mysterious and unknown. That will not be the case tonight. These two teams have all kinds of familiarity with each other, dating back to the 2012 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in Windsor, during which the Russians defeated an Ontario team with Darnell Nurse, Max Domi and Nick Ritchie in the semifinal before beating team USA in the final.

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Connor McDavid leads the charge in Canada’s quest for gold

Connor McDavid  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

With exactly five minutes and 20 seconds remaining in Canada’s 5-1 manhandling of Slovakia Sunday night, Connor McDavid collided at center ice with a Slovak player and fell to the ice. He got up, grabbed both sides of his head, struggled to get back to the bench and didn’t see the ice for the rest of the game.

For the Canadian side, it could have represented a disaster. But there McDavid was after the game answering questions and not even hinting there was anything doubt concerning his status for the gold medal game against Russia Monday night. No quiet room, no concussion, no need for worry.

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Canada’s vets eye gold, but won’t forget the past

Nic Petan (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

On paper, Canada should have run roughshod over Slovakia, a team they waxed 8-0 in the round robin. But as the Canucks learned in last year’s semifinal, when they fell unceremoniously to Finland before losing the bronze to Russia, those cliches about taking things one game at a time are spoken for a reason.

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Five Russians that Canadians will hate in the gold medal game

Vyacheslav Leshenko (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Russia will play for gold at the World Junior Championship thanks to a sturdy 4-1 win over Sweden, setting up a classic showdown with Canada on Toronto ice.

Part of the reason the Cold War has never ended in arenas is that there is a certain mystery and awe surrounding the Russians over here. Most of the world junior team still plays on the other side of the world and the KHL’s existence means that some of the better players in Russia never have to come over here.

Because rivalries are fun (and because I can’t write in Cyrillic), here are the five Russians that Canadians will love to hate – and learn to fear – in the gold medal game. To up the rivalry factor, none are plying their trade in North America right now.

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Russians shrug off chaos, as usual, to advance to gold medal game

Russian goal celebration  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Russian defenseman Rinat Valiev was asked whether his coach Valeri Bragin had ever mentioned the 2011 Russian team that looked an awful lot like this one. It took him a while to figure out the question. Once he did, he broke out into a wide smile.

“Like, everybody knows that,” said Valiev, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect who plays with Canadian captain Sam Reinhart on the Kootenay Ice of the Western League. “He don’t need to talk about it.”

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IIHF says Toronto could be sole World Junior host in 2017

Rene Fasel (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

On the heels of experiencing an attendance disaster in Montreal, the International Ice Hockey Federation is open to suggesting to Hockey Canada that the 2017 World Junior Championship be held exclusively in Toronto.

Both IIHF president Rene Fasel and Frank Gonzalez, an IIHF council member and WJC tournament director, acknowledged at a news conference Sunday that the Montreal numbers did not reach expectation and would consider the possibility of holding the entire tournament in Toronto.

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How are 2014 NHL top picks performing at World Juniors?

Bryan Mcwilliam
Team Russia v Team Sweden

The World Junior Championship is packed full of talented players from all over the globe, some of whom have already been drafted by an NHL franchise. Today, let’s take a look at how the top pick from the 2014 NHL Entry Draft from each country participating in the 2015 world junior is performing. The list below is in alphabetical order.

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Canada’s ‘big’ unit is heating up at just the right time

Canada's Lawson Crouse (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Not that Canada needed it, but the host nation’s fourth line had a big night against Denmark with two goals in an 8-0 quarterfinal romp. Because Canada’s so deep, that fourth line is comprised of two top-25 NHL draft picks and the youngest player on the team – who is threatening to go top-10 this summer.

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