Team Canada Hangs on to Beat Team USA 2-1 at World Junior Championships

Chris BlanchardContributor IIIDecember 30, 2012

Ryan Strome scored his tournament-leading fourth goal to beat Team USA 2-1
Ryan Strome scored his tournament-leading fourth goal to beat Team USA 2-1Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

In a critical Group B matchup, Team Canada survived a furious American comeback attempt to stay undefeated. The 2-1 victory sets Canada atop Group B with a perfect 3-0 record. Meanwhile, Team USA falls to 1-2 and must beat Slovakia tomorrow to advance to the knockout stages. 

Early in the first period, Team USA looked out of sync as they struggled to connect on their passes. 

The tremendously talented Canadian team took advantage, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scoring from the slot seven minutes into the game. Nugent-Hopkins leads the tournament in scoring with eight points in three games. 

Seven minutes later, Brett Ritchie wrapped around the American net, setting up Ryan Strome for Canada's second goal. The New York Islanders prospect now leads the tournament in goals scored with four. 

Down by two goals headed into the first intermission, America risked falling out of the game entirely. However, goaltender John Gibson came up with a number of timely saves to keep his team in it. 

Team USA improved in the second period as they dominated possession, but they struggled to control the dirty areas of the ice. Despite power play opportunities, the Americans settled for long perimeter shots that yielded little success. 

The third period was much of the same, with Canadian goaltender Malcolm Subban constantly frustrating opposing shooters with his best performance of the tournament. 

The game turned on a Ryan Strome delay-of-game penalty midway through the third period. The shorthanded Canadians managed a dangerous 2-on-0 rush that was thwarted by a spectacular Gibson save. The Americans picked up the rebound and sprinted up ice, where Jacob Trouba was finally able to solve Subban. 

Trouba's goal extended his scoring streak to three games and rejuvenated Team USA as it drew them within one. The next minute would see a number of quality American scoring chances, requiring some highlight-reel saves from Subban. 

Unfortunately, the Americans' most positive stretch of the game was followed by a puzzling mental collapse. The U.S. skaters completely lost their composure, taking five penalties in the last ten minutes. 

The plucky Americans somehow fought off a pair of two-man advantages on behalf of the favorites. The result of their courageous penalty killing was just two minutes remaining on the clock to tie the game. 

It was déjà vu for Team USA as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was sent to the box for boarding, giving them a power-play chance to tie it. On Friday, the Americans found themselves in the exact same situation, down 2-1 on the man-advantage with time running out against Russia. In that scenario, they failed to beat Russian goalie Andrey Makarov. 

With Gibson pulled, Team USA created a number of excellent 6-on-4 opportunities, but Malcolm Subban was the hero for Canada. The heavily scrutinized goaltender, who had surrendered six goals in his first two games of the tournament, was unbeatable for nearly the entire game. 

Subban likely ended cries from Canadian fans to see backup Jordan Binnington in net with his 36-save effort. 

At 3-0 Canada, can now lock up a quarterfinal bye with a victory over Russia in their final group game on Monday. Regardless of the outcome, the Canadians have guaranteed themselves a place in the knockout stages. 

The United States, on the other hand, must beat Slovakia on Monday if they wish to survive. After two nail-biting losses against the tournament favorites, Team USA will feel confident of their medal chances if only they can snatch a place in the knockout stage. 

Following one of the most exciting games of the tournament, the final day of group play will surely be riveting throughout.