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World junior championship: Russia’s Valeri Nichushkin ends Canada’s 14-year medal skein

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Nichushkin (right) celebrates his OT winner (The Canadian Press)

And with that, cue the Great Canadian Hand-Wring of 2013. The denouement of a disappointing world junior championship for the country who cares the most about the event came 1:35 into overtime. After Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Morgan Rielly could not cut off the puck in the neutral zone, Russia's Valeri Nichushkin blew by defenceman Ryan Murphy and stuffed the puck by goalie Malcolm Subban for a 6-5 win over Team Canada in the bronze-medal game.

It's neither the end or the world nor the end of an era, but it is the end of Canada's 14-year medal streak. Presto, there's a storyline ahead of the 2014 championship in Malmo, Sweden.

"We battled hard, but obviously fourth is not something that Canada does," captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whose four points gave him a tournament-high 15, told TSN.

It was not a smooth performance by Team Canada, which never had a lead in a see-saw bronze medal game. Starting goalie Jordan Binnington was yanked by coach Steve Spott after allowing three goals on five shots, but whether it was Binnington or Malcolm Subban in goal, the defensive coverage was shaky throughout the afternoon. Four power-play goals, all of which Nugent-Hopkins factored into. Murphy also had a three-point day. Niagara IceDogs right wing Brett Ritchie forced overtime with a hard-working goal off a scramble in the third period.

Canada's Mark Scheifele also hit the post in the third period. The margin between a medal and abject disappointment was just a matter of inches. Russia centre Mikhail Grigorenko also saved a goal in the third period.

"Empty feeling," forward Nathan MacKinnon, who could play in next season's world junior if he doesn't make the NHL as an 18-year-old, told TSN. "We didn't come here to finish fourth, or even third or second for that matter. We came here to win the gold medal. Not much to say, really. We didn't want this but we'll accept this and now it's not acceptable. Canada wants to win a gold medal and hopefully we'll do that in the future."

It is probably not much consolation for Canadian fans that the IIHF has eliminated the semifinal bye from the tournament; Team Canada has now failed to reach the final in two consecutive WJCs after winning its round-robin pool. There might be some small solace, eventually, in knowing, there is a recent pattern of teams failing to medal one season and winning the tournament the following January. Team USA, which goes for gold Saturday vs. Sweden, finished seventh in 2012.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca (videos: TSN).

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