It seems like Canada’s road to gold at the world junior men’s hockey championship often runs through Russia, given each country’s hockey pedigree.
The two adversaries square off in Monday’s semifinal in Edmonton for the right to play for gold Tuesday.
Canada has defeated Russia in a final three times over the last decade, but a semifinal clash has been rarer in that span.
The last time the two hockey powers met in a world junior semifinal was also in Alberta back in 2012, when Russia edged the host country 6-5 in Calgary before falling to Sweden in the championship match.
Finland and the United States meet in Monday’s other semifinal.
Half a dozen Canadians and three Russians on this year’s rosters faced each other in the 2020 gold medal game in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
Russia led 3-1 with just over 11 minutes to play in Ostrava. Canada scored three unanswered goals and held on for the victory through a wild last three minutes.
Defenseman Jamie Drysdale, who is among Canada’s second-year players, expects some emotional carryover from last year’s final.
“One hundred per cent I think there will be carryover,” Drysdale said. “We played each other in the final last year.
“We want to maintain where we’re at and we obviously want to come out on top. In saying that, they’re going to feel they have something to prove.”
The Canadian and Russian head coaches this year — Andre Tourigny and Igor Larionov respectively — were assistants in Ostrava. Canada edged Russia 1-0 in a pre-tournament game Dec. 23.
Canada scoring first and early in every game has been the difference in the host country’s 5-0 record at this championship. Depth of talent and speed up front is its calling card.