As the rival teams took the ice early this morning (or late this night, however you want to look at it), the world watched with much anticipation. This game marked the 4th time in 7 years that Team Canada and Team USA have met at the semi-finals of the World Juniors.
Team USA came out with a really strong start, scoring 2 unanswered goals in the 1st period. Canada’s defenseman looked surprisingly slow, letting Captain America Jake McCabe walk it in not once but twice.
The first goal came at 7:18 in the 1st by McCabe with help from Barber and Reilly. Grimaldi and Trocheck got the assist on McCabe’s second at 16:02.
With 12 shots for Team USA and 8 for Team Canada, McCabe was accurate in telling NHL Network “Those goals are credited to our speed up front.” When asked if he was planning to change anything going into the 2nd he calmly replied “I think we need to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Leading the tournament with 6th goals, little Johnny Gaudreau came up big for Team USA early in the 2nd. With an unassisted beauty goal, Gaudreau looked smooth and confident, toe dragging the puck right through Canada’s defenseman.
USA goalie John Gibson stonewalled Ryan Strone halfway through the 2nd in what looked like a potential crack at Canada’s goose-egg.
The first penalty came for Canada from the Nuge (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) for slashing.
With 10 minutes left in the 2nd Team USA got a tripping penalty and sent Canada on the power play.
Tough to fault Canada’s netminder Subban for the goals in the 1st, as his defenseman weren’t much help and screens got the better of him, but he got the boot after Team USA upped the score 4-0 in the 2nd. JT Miller made a fantastic pass to Jim Vesey who scored the goal.
Frustrations started to show as Canada drew another penalty, but Team USA wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play. Grimaldi did have a sweet drop pass back to McCabe and a hat trick looked promising, but backup Canadian goalie Jordan Binnington stopped those aspirations.
The 2nd ended 4-0 with USA fans looking happy, and Canadians beginning to shed tears into their Molson.
Both Team Canada and Team USA head to the sin bin early in the 3rd. Schiefele for Canada and Sieloff for USA as the play goes 4-on-4.
Soon after Canada takes a silly Too Many Men on the Ice penalty and creates a 4-3 power play for the Americans. Somehow or another, this all gave birth to a goal for Team Canada. Ty Rattie gets his team on the board with an odd short-handed goal that may or may not have been after the whistle.
Regardless, Canada’s first goal came due to the sloppiness of Team USA, first time in this game that they looked shaky and out of position.
From here the play seemed less one-sided.
Gaudreau takes a penalty for high sticking with about 10 minutes left in the 3rd, and Gibson remained strong against the Nuge. Team USA, with the help of defenseman Murphy, maintained excellent discipline in their penalty kill and managed to survive it.
Making up entirely for his penalty, Gaudreau’s next shift was a remarkable one. With quick feet Gaudreau skated in hard on Binnington, and with a quick wrist he put the biscuit in the basket.
The last few minutes dwindled down and U-S-A chants rose up.
Team USA played an outstanding game, wavering only once early in the 3rd, but performing as the far superior team in this matchup. With a 5-1 win over Team Canada they look tough to beat in the next and final round. The World Junior Championship will take place between Team USA and either Russia or Sweden, depending on the game later today. Remember, the gold medal game is Saturday at 8am ET, don’t miss it!