Canada didn’t get its revenge against the Americans, but that doesn’t make the team’s World Junior Championship victory any less sweet.
Tyler Steenbergen scored the go-ahead goal with one minute and 40 seconds remaining in the third as the Canadians bested Sweden, 3-1, to win the World Juniors title a year after dramatically falling to the U.S. in the shootout of the 2017 finals. It’s the country’s first World Juniors championship since 2015.
"We were trying not to dwell on last year," said forward Dillon Dube, one of the seven players who returned from the 2017 tournament. "This year, it was a new team, new group. We had a new mindset going into it. We got the job done."
Steenbergen, one of the least used players on the Canada roster, redirected a bullet point shot from defenseman Conor Timmins for his first goal of the tournament. The go-ahead tally from the unlikely hero sent the Canada-heavy crowd of 17,544 into a frenzy KeyBank Center hasn't seen in a long time.
Alex Formenton sealed the game with an empty-net goal with one minute and 14 seconds remaining.
"There's not really words to describe it," forward Rob Thomas said. "We had a hell of a game. It's something special that I'll remember forever."
Sweden, which hasn't won the World Juniors since 2012, earned its third silver medal in the past six years. The Swedish captain, Lias Andersson, threw his medal over the glass and to a fan donning a Rochester Americans jersey. Andersson got the medal back, but he said he wasn't happy that he did.
"There was one guy in the stands who wanted it more than me, so I decided to give it to him," Andersson said. "He deserved it. ... I have a silver medal from the U18 Worlds and I haven't checked it in two years."
Alex Nylander and Marcus Davidsson, the Sabres' pair of Swedish prospects, were held off the scoresheet.
"I think we were good today," Davidsson said. "I'm very proud of everybody on this team. I think they are all amazing players. We fought so hard, so we are all disappointed."
The game was tightly contested throughout, with Sweden outshooting the Canadians but Canada getting more dangerous opportunities.
Dube appeared to score in the second half of the first period, but his rebound goal was waived off due to an early whistle. The call only delayed the Calgary Flames prospect, as he scored the first goal of the game just under two minutes into the second.
Jordan Kyrou pulled off a stellar transition pass, allowing Dube to get behind Swedish defenseman Timothy Liljegren. Dube skated into the net and beat goalie Filip Gustavsson over his left shoulder despite Liljegren leaning on his back.
Sweden tied the game 13 minutes and seven seconds into the second period when Canada poorly defended a Swedish shorthanded rush. Tim Soderlund was given ample space on a 3-on-2 opportunity, allowing him to skate in from the right wing and beat Canadian goalie Carter Hart with a shot off the right post.
Hart finished with 35 saves.
Canada had ample opportunities to go ahead late in the third, including a pair of powerplays in the final ten minutes. They weren't able to convert on the man-up but didn't halt pressure and settle for overtime.
"Everybody just trusted each other," defenseman Cale Makar said. "Even if the power play wasn't clicking, we can still capitalize 5-on-5. ... Fortunately enough, we have Tyler Steenbergen on our team and he just wanted to contribute today."
Sabres prospect Casey Mittelstadt was named the tournament MVP and selected to the all-star team. He is joined on the all-star team by Swedish goalie Filip Gustavsson, Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, American forward Kieffer Bellows, Czech forward Filip Zadina and Makar.