Team Canada continued to roll Sunday with their third win of the World Juniors, beating possibly their biggest rival Team USA, 2-1. It was a goaltending duel between Canada’s Malcolm Subban and the US’s John Gibson. Canada was playing with only 11 forwards with JC Lipon and Boone Jenner both suspended. There was enough scoring chances from both sides for this to be a blowout, but Subban and Gibson kept the teams close. This was Canada’s first real challenge of the tournament and they met it head on. Unlike against Slovakia, Canada never trailed and actually dominated for a majority of the game. They played the way fans have come to expect from them and with that play came a win against a tough American team.
First Period: The first half of the period was very fast and very even. Both teams threw some big hits and had scoring chances, but neither side could pull away from the other. But just under eight minutes into the game, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins collected another one of Jonathan Huberdeau’s many nice passes and fired the puck off the post and in. The goal gave Canada a 1-0 lead and some much-needed momentum. They dominated the next 10 minutes with a strong forecheck and many scoring chances. On one of those chances, Brett Ritchie forced the puck out from behind the net and right onto Ryan Strome’s stick, who made no mistake tipping it into the goal. Suddenly it was 2-0 Canada and they were in command. The period ended with a weak slashing call to Ryan Strome and the US got some scoring chances in the final minute, but Subban kept the door closed and Canada remained in the lead going into the intermission.
Second Period: This period was more back and forth than the first and at times Canada was on their heels, defending for minutes at a time without getting an chances. Subban was a wall, stopping 15 shots in the period to preserve the shutout. There was no scoring in the period, but Canada’s undisciplined play from earlier in the tournament continued. But their penalty killing was perfect too. Scott Harrington, Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault kept the Americans at bay. And if the puck did get through, Subban was there to shut the door and keep the two goal lead.
Third Period: Canada started the third period flying, pinning the Americans in their own zone for most of the first five minutes. The best defence is a good offense and that’s the strategy Canada applied early. But then some penalty trouble came, with Subban then Strome getting back-to-back minors. With Strome in the box, Ty Rattie got a great scoring chance on a two-on-one, but Gibson stood tall. The rebound went back the other way on a rush and Jacob Trouba slid a shot through Subban’s legs to make the score 2-1 with nine minutes to play. On the next shift, the US came out firing, but Subban remained calm and made some more huge saves.
Then Canada got a present of sorts from the Americans. With eight minutes to play, US captain Jake McCabe hits Xavier Oullet in the head, resulting in a two-minute minor and 10 minute misconduct. From there, the march to the box continued for the Americans, including a second head-checking penalty and charging penalty to Trouba which gave Canada a two-minute five-on-three. Canada wasn’t able to score on any of these chances, but it killed close to six minutes. Hopkins had the best chance, hitting the cross-bar with a wide open net. But Canada will need to be better on their powerplays against Russia. The game ended with Hopkins in the box and a flurry of chances for Team USA, but Subban and the defence did not blink and Canada secured the win.
Moving forward, Canada now faces the hosts Russians, on New Year’s Eve at 9 am EST. The winner of this game will win the pool and move onto the semi-finals. The loser will place second in the pool and have to play either Finland, the Czech Republic or Switzerland in the quarter-finals.