Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
For many Canadians, tonight’s game against the United States at the World Junior Tournament was more than just a game. Hockey has long been Canada’s game and, as such, Canada has dominated the World Junior Championship for the past five years.
On the other hand, the Americans have been hard at work developing players and changing up their preparation for the tournament in an effort to compete/beat Canada.
Hockey has grown to its full potential in Canada. With that in mind, given Canada’s utter dominance of the WJC (Canada had lost only one game in the past six years heading into tonight’s action) there were some analysts suggesting an American win would be good for the exposure of the tournament in the United States.
Tonight’s festivities began with the noticeably pro-Canadian crowd passing around the familiar massive Canadian flag around the arena—a tradition that is bound to be met with some apprehension when the World Juniors switches venues to Buffalo next year.
Throughout the tournament there has been a big push for the Canadian crowd to adopt the “Eh! O' Canada Go!” chant. To their credit, Tuesday night’s crowd resisted using the God-awful chant, opting to chant the familiar “Go Canada Go!” instead.
The Americans came out with an abundance of energy, using their speed and agility to get behind the slower Canadian defense. Fortunately, Canada did not succumb to the Americans' quick start.
In fact, Canada opened the scoring in the first period when Jordan Caron fed Luke Adam with a great pass, ultimately leading to Adam putting a backhand shot past American goaltender Michael Lee, who looked weak on the play. 1-0 Canada!
Canada continued to apply pressure after they scored, but were caught trying to make cute passes a few times. Team USA used their speed to intercept Canada’s labored passes.
Team USA held it together, weathered the storm from Canada, and with Canada’s defense seemingly asleep at the wheel, scored the tying goal when Chris Krieder shot a bullet past Canadian goaltender Jake Allen.
Just 36 seconds later, the Americans got their first lead of the game when Jordan Schroeder shot high on Allen, beating the young netminder.
To their credit, the Canadians responded right away when Nemisz slid the puck along the ice, beating Lee and marking the second time Lee looked bad on a goal.
Canada would end the period on the penalty kill when defenseman Alex Pietrangelo inexplicably nailed American forward Jeremy Morin from behind, leading to a two-minute penalty and a 10-minute misconduct to boot.
The Canadians were outshot by the Americans by an embarrassing 13-5 mark and, by all accounts, outside of a few bad breaks, the Americans outplayed the Canadians.
Early in the second period, with Canada on the penalty kill, American defenseman John Carlson scored a power play marker at 18:22, putting the Americans up for the second time in the game.
Once again, Canada responded quickly when Taylor Hall scored for Canada at 16:04 in the third. That was all she wrote for American goaltender Michael Lee, as he was pulled in favor of Jack Campbell. No question about it, Lee looked shaky all night, giving up three weak goals.
At the other end of the ice, Canadian goaltender Jake Allen has made a few good saves, but he has looked tentative at times and seems to be fighting the puck. Still, Canada elects to stick with him (which would be a mistake).
Canada and the US exchanged power play opportunities, with both teams coming up short. Campbell, who barely had time to break a sweat at this point, stood on his head for the Americans, thwarting several Canadian shooters.
Alex Pietrangelo finally came back into the game at 11:03 of the second. From that point on, Canada seemed to play with renewed confidence. Clearly, Pietrangelo’s presence was a huge boost for the Canadians after losing him for a full 10 minutes.
Nazim Kadri continually hit the offensive zone with vigor. He was not afraid to take the shot when it presented itself, establishing himself as a major scoring threat. Jordan Eberle was also a consistent threat around the net, leading many to speculate that he may once again be Canada’s hero.
The biggest hit of the period belonged to Canadian defenseman Ryan Ellis who lamb-basted American forward Ryan Bourque along the boards, a hit that resonated throughout the arena, albeit partially drowned out by the cheers from the crowd.
Unlike the first period, Canada dominated the late going, pumping the American goaltender with shots and hitting Team USA’s forwards at will. In the end, the two teams left the ice knotted in a 3-3 tie, which set the stage for yet another memorable third period.
Canada outshot the Americans 14-8 and had a much better period, taking the game to the Americans and dominating the offensive zone.
So, with hearts pumping at both ends of the ice, Canada and USA faced off for the coveted gold medal.
Canada started the third period with an early power play. Campbell continued to stand on his head in net and the American defensemen did a great job of blocking shots, ultimately shutting Canada’s power play down.
Shortly after killing off the penalty, the Americans had a two-on-one. Jerry D’amigo took a pass, which he deposited into the back of the net behind Canadian goaltender Jake Allen. 4-3 USA...
The Americans would add another goal, this time scored by Derek Stepan, when Allen misplayed the puck (à la Marc-Andre Fleury) and with that, it was now 5-3 USA...
The goal led to the game's second goaltending change as Canada put Martin Jones in net to replace the shaky Allen.
With 4:01 left in the third period Kyle Palmieri took a goaltender interference penalty, which ultimately led to Canada scoring its fourth goal, putting them within one.
It was the prelude to one of the biggest comebacks in Canadian history when, with the Canadians swarming the Americans' net and with one minute to go, Jordan Eberle scored to tie the game at five goals apiece. What an incredible comeback!
If he wasn’t a legend already, Jordan Eberle is one now. First, his huge tying goal against Russia in last years semifinal, his efforts on New Year's Eve, and now another huge goal against the United States to give Canada another shot at the gold.
The Americans started the overtime period off with a great scoring chance from Ryan Bourque (son of former Boston Bruin legend, Ray Bourque). Fortunately for Canada, Jones was up for the challenge, stopping Bourque and corralling the rebound.
Canada responded with some good pressure in the Americans' zone, but the Americans would prove to be too much on this night, when coming off a great save by Campbell at the other end, the Americans broke out into a two-on-one, leading to the winning goal by John Carlson, which beat Jones on the short side.
And, with that, Canada’s drive for six gold medals was over. For the second time in their history, Team USA are gold medal winners!
Jordan Eberle took player of the game honors for Team Canada and will likely receive plenty of consideration for tournament MVP. Derek Stepan took player of the game honors for Team USA.
Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Alex Pietrangelo were picked by the Canadian coaching staff as their three stars. The top three players for Team USA were, Tyler Johnson, Derek Stepan, and Jerry D’amigo—a Toronto Maple Leaf draft pick.
Benjamin Conz of Switzerland took top goalie honors, Canada’s Alex Pietrangelo took top defenseman honors, and Jordan Eberle took top forward honors.
Anything can happen on any given Sunday, or in this case, Tuesday night. Team USA was full value for their win. They played as well as the Canadians throughout the tournament and, on this night, were the better team.
Kudo’s go out to Team USA. Their speed was incredible and, given their penchant for blocking shots, they paid the price for victory, which is admirable. Canada last allowed more than four goals in the gold medal game in 2002, a game they lost to the Russians, once again proving goaltending is the key to victory, something Canada lacked on this occasion.
For the record, despite giving up two late, third period goals, American goalie Jack Campbell stopped 32 of 34 shots en route to the gold medal win...any questions?
In the end, this was an epic battle. What we witnessed was a great battle with both teams giving 100 percent. It was a classic—a game that both Canadians and Americans, albeit for different reasons, will not likely soon forget.
Of note, the Americans also won the under-17 tournament against Canada yesterday, serving notice that Team USA is for real, establishing themselves as a country that should be able to compete for gold for the foreseeable future.
Until next time,
Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter