MINSK, Belarus - With all due respect to their opponents, Team Canada should have won by a more convincing margin. The bottom line, however, is that the Canadians won, defeating Norway by a 3-2 final, finishing their round-robin schedule at the World Hockey Championship at an impressive 5-1-1-0.
With Sweden's 5-1 win over Italy on Monday, Team Canada needed a regulation win on Tuesday in order to secure top spot in Group A. It wasn't easy but they did it - and even though both countries finished at 18 points each with identical 5-1-1-0 records, Canada wins the tiebreaker having scored 25 goals in the tournament to Sweden's 18.
The only scoring in the first period of this game came from the Norweigan side as Anders Bastiansen beat James Riemer for the game's opening goal. But the Canadians responded in the second thanks to Joel Ward, who netted a power-play marker 3:36 into the frame. Ryan Ellis and Sean Monahan provided the assists.
At the 12:16 mark of the middle frame, though, Norway regained their lead thanks to Mads Hansen (now there's a great name!). But the Canadians answered right back as Mark Scheifele tied it just over four minutes later with a goal from Kevin Bieska and Joel Ward.
In the third, the Canadians broke away as Joel Ward netted his second power-play marker of the game to give his country the lead - a lead they would not relinquish.
Like their tournament-opener, Team Canada was in tough against a mediocre team with a hot goaltender. But unlike said opener, the Canadians persevered in this one, but not before working hard to solve Norway netminder Steffan Soberg, firing a total of 42 shots on him.
With their clinching of the top spot in Group A, Canada will now play the fourth-place team from Group B, which will be Finland, thanks to Latvia's loss on Tuesday.
For general manager Rob Blake, the 5-1-1-0 finish at his first round-robin certainly is promising. After a shocking loss to France to open the Worlds, Team Canada pulled off five-straight victories and along the way, received plenty of offensive help from the likes of Mark Scheifele, Cody Hodgson and Joel Ward, the latter of which is representing his native country for the first time at any level.
In goal, there hasn't been any official word on which netminder is the starter but former King Ben Scrivens seems to have played better than his former Leaf teammate James Reimer. Regardless, we'll find out which backstop will start versus Finland.
But as promising as their round-robin was, the harsh reality for Team Canada is that it's gold or nothing - and that goes especially for the Worlds where they haven't won gold since 2007.