BUFFALO, N.Y. - Canadian Tyler Steenbergen dropped to one knee and pumped his fist after putting away the winner in the gold-medal game of the world junior hockey championship.
It was Steenbergen's first goal of the tournament and came with 1:40 to play in the third period to lead Canada to a 3-1 victory over Sweden on Friday night.
After more than 18 minutes of scoreless play in the third, defenceman Connor Timmins sent a long pass in from the point, finding Steenbergen to the left of Sweden's net.
Rarely used in the tournament except on the power play, Steenbergen deflected the puck into the net, bringing the raucous crowd to its feet and breaking a deadlock that seemed destined for overtime.
Captain Dillon Dube also scored for Canada, while Alex Formenton added an empty-net goal 26 seconds after Steenbergen struck.
Carter Hart made 35 saves, tying Jimmy Waite and Stephane Fiset for most career wins by a Canadian goalie at the world juniors.
Hart had become one of the most popular players at the tournament, thanks to his many idiosyncrasies. In particular, his insistence on being the last player to leave the ice after a period and the lengths he would go to insure that he was last off made him an Internet darling.
Tim Soderlund was the lone scorer for Sweden. Filip Gustavsson stopped 26-of-28 shots.
Trent Frederic scored four times to lead the United States past the Czech Republic 9-3 earlier Friday in the bronze-medal game.
Loud "Let's go Canada!'' chants began within the first minute of the game. It was the largest indoor crowd of the tournament by a wide margin, with at least 80 per cent of the seats at KeyBank Center filled. Poor attendance throughout the event, aside form the record-setting 44,592 fans at the first-ever outdoor game, was an ongoing issue.
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel admitted on Thursday that the Toronto-Buffalo corridor has been oversaturated with three world junior championships in the region over the past four years, on top of the NHL's World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in the fall of 2016. He said that the IIHF would try to spread them around North America more to avoid burning out fans.
Sweden outshot Canada 16-9 in a scoreless first period, but both teams' speed was on full display with several end-to-end rushes and quick passing plays by both teams. This is exactly the sort of team head coach Dominique Ducharme and the executives at Hockey Canada had envisioned when they began assembling their roster in St. Catharines, Ont., in mid-December: fast, applying constant pressure to their opponents and creating breakaways from turnovers.
That speed was noticeable on Canada's opening goal of the night. Jordan Kyrou carried the puck down the centre of the ice, passing to Dube on his left wing, who snapped the puck past Gustavsson at the 1:49 mark of the second. The crowd erupted with cheers after the goal, singing along to "Hey Baby!'' by DJ Otzi, putting extra emphasis on the ``ooo, ahhhh'' of the chorus.
"Hey Baby!'' had been a controversial choice for Canada's goal-scoring celebration song. The majority of Canada's players voted for a different song but two players went rogue and submitted the ear-worm on their own. Eventually, it became a favourite of all the players and especially Canadian fans who enjoyed serenading their team after wins.
Soderlund responded with about seven minutes left in the second, breaking down the right wing while Sweden was down a player. He ripped a wrist shot over Hart's glove hand to tie it 1-1.
The Swedes dominated play in the second, with Canada struggling to get shots on net and forcing too many passes. By the end of the period Sweden had outshot Canada 25-18 even though the Canadians had two power plays in the second.