It has become a New Year’s Eve tradition. This was the eighth year that Canada and the U.S. have met during the World Junior Championships on New Year’s Eve. Before the tournament began people looked ahead to this one as that which would decide 1st place in Group B. Canada held up their end of the bargain by going undefeated (3-0). The U.S. had lost two of their games. Shocking most so-called experts the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic and Finland. This meant that the U.S. was not advancing to the medal round. This game meant nothing in the standings. Canada had already clinched 1st place. The U.S. can finish no better than 7th. Does all this mean that the game would be a bust. No way, Jose! No matter the circumstances I still expect every Canada-U.S. confrontation to be intense. It would be two arch rivals meeting for continental bragging rights. The game didn’t start out this way, but it lived up to expectations in the end.
In somewhat of a surprise move Canada’s coach Doug Hay named Scott Wedgewood as his starting goaltender. It is not really a surprise as 19-year-old Wedgewood’s only start was a 3-0 shutout victory against the Czech Republic. Michael Bournival was also back in the line-up after missing the last game due to the flu.
This was an important game for many reasons. For Canada, they don’t want to go into the medal round playing poorly. The game started like all others for Canada with Mark Stone scoring an early goal. It was a power play marker (Habs’ property Jarred Tinordi was sent off on a silly roughing penalty) and was similar to most of his other goals (7 – including this one) in that he finished off a perfect feed from linemate Jonathan Huberdeau.
Stone has been a revelation in this tournament and has scored in every game so far. He has 7 goals on 15 shots. Very efficient. His strength is as a shooter and he knows it so doesn’t try to be someone he isn’t. He is now only 3 goals off the Canadian record for most goals (10) in the tournament.
Throughout the 1st period Canada handed the U.S. their lunch. Dominating them in every aspect. Jaden Schwartz (10:12) and Brett Connolly (15:59) made it a 3-0 lead in the 1st period. The taunting of U.S. goalie Jack Campbell started. Canada had scored 3 goals on 15 shots, but Campbell could have done nothing on any of the goals. The reason that Canada was winning had nothing to do with his goaltending and everything to do with the fact that the U.S. was not competing. And he kept the Canadian goal total at 3, which kept his team in striking range.
As the 2nd period started the game could have gone one of two ways. Either the U.S. would pack it in and have their lunches handed to them for the next 40 minutes or they would show some backbone and compete for their country. It turned out it was the latter.
The one weak spot for Canada throughout the tournament has been their taking penalties. They started taking penalties in the 2nd period. Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton and Quinton Howden all took minor penalties and the ensuing power plays seemed to allow the U.S. to get their game in order. Canada did not allow any goals on the power plays and they have only allowed 1 goal in 20 power play opportunities against. But the momentum definitely swung towards the U.S.
In the 3rd period Brandon Gormley and Boone Jenner continued the parade to the penalty box for Canada. Again the U.S. did not score, but they continued to push Canada. It was the first time Canada had been pushed and pushed hard in the tournament.
Finally the U.S. scored and Wedgewood gave up his first goal of the tournament. Almost halfway through the 3rd period Charlie Coyle rifled a wrist shot his above Wedgewood’s glove hand. It was an incredible shot and gave a shot in the arm to the U.S. Less than 4 minutes later U.S. captain Jason Zucker, the man who had said that his team would beat Canada before the game, got a lucky break when his centering pass from behind the goal line hit Wedgewood’s skate and deflected into the Canadian net.
Doug Hay called a time out after the second U.S. goal and calmed his troops down. It seemed to work as Canada picked up their game a little. With 1:50 left in the game U.S. coach Dean Blais called a timeout and kept Campbell on the bench after it was over. Hay trusted Boone Jenner, who has the highest face off win percentage in the entire tournament, to take the face off. It was a good choice as he won it and Canada was able to control the puck. Just to make it interesting Canada iced the puck with 4.4 seconds left. The U.S. didn’t manage to tie up the game, so all’s well that ends well for Canada, who ended the round robin with a perfect 4-0 record.
Canada does not play again until their semi-final game on Tuesday. The semi-finals will be played in Calgary.
-On-Ice Officials: Referees: Vyacheslav Bulanov (Russia) and Soeren Persson (Sweden)
Linesmen: Johannes Kack (Sweden) and Milan Novak (Slovakia)
-Goals: 1st Period:
5:39: Canada – (pp) Mark Stone assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Dougie Hamilton
10:12: Canada – Jaden Schwartz assisted by Mark Stone and Ryan Strome
15:59: Canada – Brett Connolly unassisted
9:49: U.S. – Charlie Coyle assisted by J.T. Miller
13:12: U.S. – Jason Zucker assisted by Jacob Trouba and Bill Arnold
-Shots on Goal: Canada: 35
-Players of the Game: Canada: Brendan Gallagher
U.S.: Jacob Trouba
-Final Score: Canada: 3