By Lane Fahey, Contributor
After a 12 year hiatus, the World Cup of Hockey returned to Toronto, Ontario. Previously, the tournament has consisted of six teams: U.S., Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Russia. This year, these teams are joined by two newcomers, Europe and North America.
The tournament started out with a pre-tournament, allowing each team to play three times. The teams then split into two different groups, A and B. Group A had teams U.S., Canada, Europe and Czech Republic. Group B had teams Sweden, Finland, North America and Russia. This round-robin was set up with the same NHL rules, including two points for a win, and one for an overtime loss. The two teams with the most points at the end of the round-robin would advance to the semifinals.
The top teams that were projected to make it far in this tournament were U.S. and Canada. Not surprisingly, Team Canada dominated the tournament. The top five players with the most points in the tournament are all from Team Canada and they had a perfect record in the round-robin.
While Canada makes it to the Finals against Team Europe, the U.S. team had a disappointing tournament, losing all three of their games. Controversy surrounds this team and their head coach John Tortorella. A Stanley Cup Champion with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, Tortorella is currently the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. While selecting his roster for Team U.S., he decided to not choose Phil Kessel. Kessel led the Pittsburgh Penguins in points in the playoffs this year, and helped them secure the Stanley Cup in 2016.
Team North America is a new concept to the tournament, featuring players from the United States and Canada, who are 23 years old or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016. This team had rising stars including Jack Eichel, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews.
Team North America played hard all throughout the tournament, winning two games and losing one game to Russia. However, because North America and Russia both had four points, this young and talented team was sent home packing. The argument over this team was whether Team USA and Team Canada needed some of these players to succeed. Canada may not have needed McDavid, but U.S. may have needed some help on their team.
There have been injuries involved during this tournament, and will cause problems for some NHL teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray broke his hand in a preliminary round game for North America. The goaltender will be missing three to six weeks, and may cause him to lose his spot as the Penguins’ starting goalie. Another key injury is the Los Angeles Kings’ Marian Gaborik. Gaborik was injured in the Semifinals game against Sweden for Team Europe. Gaborik will be out for eight weeks with a foot injury, missing a good chunk of the NHL regular season.
An unexpected team that showed their dominance is Team Europe. Team Europe includes players from various European countries: Austria, Belarus, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and others. Losing only to Canada in the round-robin and topping a strong Sweden team in overtime in the semifinals, Mats Zuccarello and Anze Kopitar both lead the team with four points.
In the first game of the finals, Team Europe kept up with Team Canada, a fact that not many assumed would happen going into this game. Both teams had over 30 shots in the game, but Canada starting off with an early two goal lead helped them stay on top of Europe the whole night. Steven Stamkos scored for the first time in the tournament in this game, tallying his second point overall. The game ended 3-1, with Canada looking to clinch the tournament in the next game.
Following Canada’s win, Europe looked to push through Game Two and force a Game Three. During the first period, Europe dominated all play, and Zdeno Chara scored, giving them a lead. Europe kept their lead, until the last couple of minutes in the game.
With less than three minutes, Patrice Bergeron scored off a tip to tie the game, but the game had not been put on ice yet.. With not much time left before regulation ended, Europe put pressure on Canada with a powerplay. But, Carey Price, the goaltender for Canada, was solid and Europe could not get past him. However, with 43 seconds Brad Marchand seemingly one of the superstars of the team this year, scored a shorthanded goal. Coming off a new contract with the Bruins, Marchand finished the tournament, leaving a very hardworking Europe team empty-handed.
The whole arena, full of Canada fans erupted as they began to celebrate. Captain Sidney Crosby lead all players in the tournament with 10 points, and won the MVP of the tournament. Team Canada dominates these world tournaments, and they now have World Cup of Hockey 2016 to add to the collection.