For forty minutes last night the course that Team Canada had set out on since mid-December was right on track. But a disastrous five minute stretch early in the third period allowed Team Russia back in the game and they rode the momentum wave to an unlikely 5-3 win in the World U20 Championship Gold Medal game.
It was not the finish that Ryan Johansen wanted to be sure. He had a great tournament for Team Canada and earned All-Star honors for his efforts during the week. Last night was the first game in the tournament that he was held without a point, but he did have some nice set-ups that weren’t finished and he was beaten by the Russian goaltenders in tight a few times as well.
Johansen returns to Portland and his Winterhawks teammates with a Silver Medal and the knowledge that he can be a dominant player on the international stage in his age bracket. Will he get a second chance at Gold next year in Alberta? That won’t be known until the Columbus Blue Jackets decide on Johansen’s fate next fall. He could stick in the NHL as a 19 year old rookie like Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.
Either way, it will be nice to have Johan as well as Nino Niederreiter, Sven Bartschi, Derrick Pouliot and Brendan Leipsic back in Portland this weekend and wearing the Hawks sweater. The early season points advantage in the Division and Conference are gone and it will be a battle to the end to see who comes out on top…and that is how it should be. No one gets to their heaven without a fight…and the Hawks have a couple new weapons in the arsenal since the five players listed above left to play for their Countries with the additions of Craig Cunningham and William Wrenn.
When I was sitting in the broadcast booth a few years ago, suffering through an 11 win, then a 17 and a 19 win season, I was dreaming of being in a playoff race. Thinking of how much fun it would be to call games for a contending team. I got a taste last year with the 44 wins and a first round playoff win. Now the expectations are greater and the stakes are higher. Every night is going to be a war and I can’t wait to see what happens over the next few months.
I can’t imagine the disappointment felt by Johansen and his Canadian mates after last nights game, but as much as it hurts, it will make them all stronger on and off the ice, IMO. As Portland Winterhawks fans you should be proud of what all five of our players showed at the two championships. But now…its time to get back to the business at hand in Portland.
The stretch run starts Saturday at the Rose Garden against Seattle…