The 2009 World Juniors Championships in Ottawa was one of the greatest tournaments to date. Canada won four straight gold medals up to that point and could tie the record with five straight on home ice.
Canada’s team that year was loaded with future NHL stars including PK Subban, Alex Pietrangelo, Jordan Eberle, Evander Kane, Jamie Benn and John Tavares.
Heading into the final match of round-robin play, Team USA and Team Canada were both undefeated, playing for first place in the New Year's Eve showdown. Group winners would automatically advance to the semifinals in the old tournament format, so more than bragging rights were on the line that night.
Fast forward to New Year's Eve. Scotiabank Arena was packed to the roof. Red and white flooded the Ottawa arena has the homegrown kids faced off against their rivals to the south. The energy in the arena was buzzing and the Americans were facing a tough disadvantage before the puck even dropped. Despite being outmatched in the cheer department, Team USA quickly silenced the crowd by scoring three goals in the first period to go up 3-0 on Canada.
The game seemed too far out of reach for the Canadians until assistant captain and Ontario native John Tavares got Canada's first goal with just over five minutes to play in the period. Less than a minute later, Tavares cut the lead to one after burying a beautiful goal past USA goalie Tom McCollum. Jordan Eberle made it 3-3 before the period was over, tying the game in under four minutes for Canada.
The game was back and forth through the next to periods, until the last minute of the third. Canada was up 5-4 and Team USA pulled their goalie to try and get a late equalizer. Angelo Esposito pushed the puck to centre ice and Tavares picked it up, staring at an empty American net. Instead of firing the puck from centre, Tavares carried it all the way to the mouth of goal with one hand on his stick, the other shielding off USA defenseman Jordan Schroeder.
Tavares pushed the puck into the net and gave Canada the 6-4 lead while getting his third goal of the night. Scotiabank Place went wild, you could hear the Canadian faithful cheering through the tv screen. Canada closed the game out 7-4, giving them an automatic bye to the semifinals where they would play one of the greatest World Junior games against Russia.
Despite how amazing this game was, it doesn’t even rank NO.1 in our 12 Days of World Juniors list. Stay tuned to day 12 to see which 2009 Team Canada game came ahead of this classic.