TRENTINO, Italy (CIS) – Team captain Chris Culligan from the University of New Brunswick had two goals and an assist as Canada dominated Kazakhstan 6-2 to capture its fourth Winter Universiade men's hockey title, Saturday afternoon at the Gianmario Scola Arena in Canazei, Italy.
The team of all-stars from the Atlantic University Sport conference, which edged defending two-time champion Russia 2-1 in Friday's semifinals, wraps up the biennial tournament with a 5-1 overall mark. The only blemish on its record was a 4-2 round-robin loss to Kazakhstan last Sunday.
The Canadian men, who have now claimed 13 medals (4-3-6) in 14 all-time appearances at the event, had previously triumphed at the FISU Games in 1981 in Jaca, Spain (University of Alberta Golden Bears), 1991 in Sapporo, Japan (senior national team) and 2007 in Turin, Italy (AUS all-stars).
"It's an unbelievable feeling. What can you say?," said Team Canada head coach Gardiner MacDougall from UNB, who was an assistant coach with the 2007 gold medal-winning squad. "We had a slogan BIW and the guys figured it out as we went on our journey – be the best in the world. How often do you become the best in the world in anything you do? In this case, this is a Canadian passion, hockey. The guys should be very, very proud.
"AUS coaches should be very proud of their players that represented our conference, CIS and the country. To add to that, it's a special time of year, it's Christmas. December is synonymous in Canada for international hockey and hopefully we can set the trend for the world juniors and the Olympics because we have 28 proud Canadians here in Italy that's for sure."
Culligan, a forward from Howie Center, N.S., scored five minutes into the second period to give Canada a commanding 4-1 lead and sealed the victory early in the final frame with his third of the competition.
"Like I said yesterday, the last two games we've been coming along really well as a group, the chemistry's been great both off and on the ice. We came out and made it simple for ourselves, took advantage of our chances probably as good as we have had all tournament. For us to do that in this tournament is pretty special.
"It's great to be a world champion. It's one of those things where everyone has to come together in such a short time, one of those things you can't really explain. It's a feeling you get, it's something you'll never forget and to do it with these guys and to be the person that represents them as their captain is such an honour. I'm really, really trilled right now!"
Tyler Carroll of Strathroy, Ont., who had a goal and a helper in Friday's semifinal win, set up his UNB teammate on Culligan's first of the contest.
"It's amazing what we've accomplished in these two weeks, it really is. We all come from different schools, from rival schools, but we all came together and made it happen. We will be rivals again next month but this two-week journey has been quite something, now we are world champions. It's a feeling you can't really describe, I'm just happy to have been a part of it."
The gold-medal final was a stark contrast to Friday's defensive battle against Russia.
Kazakhstan stunned Canada with a goal only 14 seconds in but the AUS standouts responded with three markers in a span of three minutes and 37 seconds to take a 3-1 lead after only 7:16 of play.
The Canadians all but put the game away with two more unanswered goals in the second period and added one more early in the third before their rivals found the back of the net again.
Taking advantage of its opponent's undisciplined play, the Red & White connected twice on 11 power-play opportunities, both times with two men up, and finished with a 54-21 advantage in shots on goal, including a 26-10 margin in the first, 18-5 in the second and 10-6 in the third.
Unfortunately, things got out of hands in the final stanza and when it was all said and done, eight players had received game misconducts, including three Canadians. Kazakhstan's head coach and his assistant were also sent back to the locker room early.
The ice was barely dry when Yevgeniy Rymarev sent a pass from the right corner to Alexandr Shin, who opened the scoring with his first of two on the afternoon.
Mike Cazzola, an Acadia University forward from Guelph, Ont., put Canada on the board at 3:39, sliding the puck between Andrey Yankov's pads at the end of a breakaway.
StFX's Josh Day, a defenceman from St. John's, sent a rebound past Yankov at 5:25 to give the Canucks their first lead of the game and UPEI rearguard Matthew Maione of Unionville, Ont., made it 3-1 at 7:16 when his long-range shot was deflected to the back of the net.
Culligan made it a three-goal affair 5:24 into the middle frame on a one-timer off a perfect feed from Carroll. Seven minutes later, during a 5-on-3, it was the captain's turn to set up one of his UNB teammates as he assisted on Nick MacNeil's tournament-leading seventh at 12:03.
Culligan scored Canada's second 5-on-3 goal of the day 8:32 into the third, and Shin rounded out the scoring for Kazakhstan with a power play marker at 12:27.
Saint Mary's netminder Anthony Peters of Blyth, Ont., turned aside 19 pucks for his fourth win in as many starts at the competition. Yankov was spectacular in a losing cause with 48 saves.
GAME NOTES: Rymarev (7-7-14), Shin (4-9-13) and MacNeil of Creignish, N.S. (7-3-10) finished 1-2-3 in tournament scoring... Moncton forward Éric Faille (5-5-10) also tallied 10 points during the six-game event... In three appearances at the tournament, AUS all-stars have now claimed to gold (2013, 2007) and one silver (2001)... The Canadian men's triumph came 24 hours after Canada's 5-0 win over Russia in the women's hockey gold-medal final... The entire red and white women's hockey team, led by head coach Howie Draper from the University of Alberta, was among the many Canadian in the crowd for the men's final.
Team Canada website: http://english.cis-sic.ca/universiade/winter/2013/index
Trentino 2013 website: http://www.universiadetrentino.org/en