North Bay Battalion graduate Nick Paul scored the game winner 6:26 into overtime to give Canada 2021 IIHF World Hockey Championship gold on Sunday in Riga, Latvia. Former Red Tilson Trophy recipient Connor Brown (Erie Otters) fed Paul a cross-crease feed on the deciding marker as the Canadians became the first team to ever win gold at the tournament after dropping its first three games.
A total of 10 OHL alumni were included on Canada’s roster in addition to Ottawa 67’s head coach Andre Tourigny, who was serving as an assistant in Latvia.
The Finns opened the scoring in a rematch of the 2019 gold medal game before QMJHL graduate Maxime Comtois tied things up. Finland re-took the lead in the third, setting the stage for Windsor Spitfires graduate and former OHL Playoff MVP Adam Henrique to knot the score at two with 7:23 remaining.
Paul’s winner solidified Canada’s 27th World Championship gold medal and first since 2016.
“We started off 0-3, not the start we wanted, but we came together as a group,” said Paul. “People counted us out, [but] we knew we were going to come together, work hard and take it in the end and we did. We made it closer than we wanted, but it was an unbelievable, hard-fought game and I’m super proud right now.”
“You get familiar with how Finland plays; they play such a structured and tight defensive game,” said Henrique. “We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew we were going to have to find a way to score a few goals to win because once they get a lead they are tough to come back on and they’ve proven that year after year.”
After the game, Barrie Colts graduate Andrew Mangiapane was named tournament MVP. He finished with seven goals – four of them game-winners – and four assists in seven games. He was also named to the media all-star team.
“I think [Mangiapane] came in and added an element that we needed at the right time,” said Henrique. “Him coming over was huge for our team [and] our team chemistry and it seemed to click on the ice, which was big for us moving forward.”
Brown was also impressive, leading the tournament with 16 points including 14 assists in 10 games. The 14 helpers are the most-ever by a Canadian in a single year, and tied for second-most in tournament history.
Despite losses to Latvia, and the U.S. and Germany, Canada posted wins over Italy, Kazakhstan and Norway before a shootout loss to Finland to cap the preliminary round. With a little bit of help along the way to advance to the quarterfinals, Canada earned a spot in the gold medal game with a 3-2 overtime win over Russia in the quarterfinals and a 4-2 semifinal victory over the United States.
London Knights graduate Olli Maatta was the lone OHL graduate on Team Finland to claim silver. Four OHL grads including Sasha Chmelevski (Ottawa 67’s/San Jose Sharks), Kevin Labanc (Barrie Colts/San Jose Sharks), Jason Robertson (Niagara IceDogs/Dallas Stars) and Anthony Stolarz (London Knights/Anaheim Ducks) were bronze medal winners with the United States.
10 OHL GRADUATES ON TEAM CANADA:
Connor Brown (Erie Otters/Ottawa Senators)
Michael Bunting (Soo Greyhounds/Arizona Coyotes)
Michael DiPietro (Ottawa 67’s/Vancouver Canucks)
Liam Foudy (London Knights/Columbus Blue Jackets)^
Adam Henrique (Windsor Spitfires/Anaheim Ducks)
Andrew Mangiapane (Barrie Colts/Calgary Flames)
Colin Miller (Soo Greyhounds/Buffalo Sabres)
Nick Paul (North Bay Battalion/Ottawa Senators)
Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit/Manitoba Moose)^*
Gabriel Vilardi (Kingston Frontenacs/Los Angeles Kings)
Assistant Coach Andre Tourigny (Ottawa 67’s)
For more information on Canada’s National Men’s Team, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along via social media on Facebook and Twitter.