Today at the World Junior Championships, Team USA and Team Canada faced off in the final game of the round robin portion of the tournament in Group A. This round goes to Team Canada as they defeated the Americans 3-2 in another epic battle between the two teams.
The first period was pretty even throughout. The speed of both teams was on display as they traded chances but Team Canada goalie Zachary Fucale and Team USA goalie Jon Gillies were there to stymie all scoring chances to keep the game scoreless after one.
Team USA was able to break through early in the second period. As both teams were short a man, Team USA captain Riley Barber was able to beat Fucale to the post and stuff it past the netminder. Team Canada took over from there. The depth of the Canadiens proved to be a bit much for the Americans as they used their speed and forecheck to create chances. Canada was able to tie the game after hard work by forward Anthony Mantha who was able to find the trailer Nic Petan who beat Gillies.
In the third period, Canada was able to kill of a penalty and then they went to work. Again the Team Canada talent proved to be a little to much for Team USA as they forced the Americans into penalty trouble. Canada scored goals 2:17 apart on the power play to get the lead to 3-1. USA would try to fight back, but Fucale made a game saving save as he had to squeeze the pads to prevent the puck from trickling over the goal line. Team USA raised their hands as they thought they had scored but replay clearly showed the puck getting nowhere near the goalline. The Americans didn’t quit and were able to get a second goal, scored by Stephan Matteau but it was too late and the Canadiens skated off victorious.
The power play was the differnence in this one. Team USA came into the game converting on 11 of 19 chances but went 0-3 in this one. Team Canada was able to capitalize on their chances with two goals and eventually the victory.
With the win, Team Canada wins Group A and will have a much easier path to the finals. Team Canada will face Team Switzerland in their quarterfinal game. If they win that they get the winner of Team Czech versus Team Finland.
Team USA has to feel a little disappointed with the outcome of this game. All Team USA needed to do was get this one to overtime to secure top spot in their group. Canada couldn’t have caught them in points due to their earlier loss in the tournament to the Czechs. Now, Team USA has a much harder road to the finals. If they intend on repeating as champions, they will first need to get past the Russians who are loaded with talent. If they can get past Russia, they get the winner of a loaded Team Sweden or Team Slovakia.
After a great preliminary round of hockey, the World Junior only gets ramped up more as we get into the medal round. As the stakes become higher, the elite talent in this tournament gets brought to the forefront, which means we as fans are in for a treat in these next series of games. All I can say is, enjoy.