This morning the United States faced what many consider to be the best Canadian Junior Team in years. Players such as Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Ryan Strome lead the Canadians to a 2-0 start in this tournament, having defeated Germany and Slovakia so far in the preliminary round. The United States entered the matchup 1-1, having beaten Team Germany and lost to Team Russia. If Canada wanted to continue their strong start, they would have to go through a very young and talented American squad.
As the game started, one thing could be clearly seen: The Canadian team was giving it their all. They showed their speed and determination early on, and this set the pace for the period. Nugent-Hopkins scored for Team Canada just 8 minutes into the period. Team USA needed to stop the momentum and fast. Ryan Strome scored later in the period to give Canada a two goal lead going into the next period.
The US did have a powerplay that carried over from the first period, but they did not capitalize on the chance. The Canadian penalty kill meant business. About halfway through the second, Team Canada received a 4-minute double minor penalty for high-sticking, giving the Americans a great chance to jump into the game. The Canadian penalty killers did a good job of getting into the opposing passing lanes and blocking the shooting paths. Canada’s goaltender Malcolm Subban (Yes he’s P.K.’s brother) had it really easy and didn’t have to face many hard shots. Tyler Biggs and Vince Trocheck really stepped up for Team USA and successfully killed off a penalty late in the period to keep the game close. Canada excelled in intercepting many American passes, and some of Team USA’s players even skated past a few passes.
In the third period, Team USA’s strategy was to throw everything on net. 8 minutes into the third period, the US drew a penalty after the Canadians tried to stop the increased pressure. On the powerplay that followed, the Americans faced a wall of Canadians who were effectively killing it off by remaining calm and making their opponents work. Immediately following a successful penalty kill, Team Canada received a penalty for delay of game. American goalie John Gibson, who hadn’t seen much action in the period, suddenly was forced to wake up when he saw two Canadian forwards charging down the ice shorthanded, with only one American defender back. He made a phenomenal save, and on the rush going the other way, Team USA scored a powerplay goal. What a turn of events! Jacob Trouba scored a goal five-hole on Subban, and this gave them a huge momentum boost. From this point on, the Americans turned on the pressure. Following that goal, Team USA charged down the ice, and made Subban stand on his head to make an amazing save on a quick rebound opportunity that would’ve tied the game at two apiece. The puck came back, and another shot was fired on net, just missing the right shoulder of Subban. Jake McCabe, one of the American defensemen delivered a check to the head of a Canadian player, and he received a game-misconduct and a 2-minute minor penalty. Tyler Biggs shortly after, received a penalty for goaltender interference.
Team Canada had 25 seconds of a 2-man advantage. The desperate USA defensemen killed off the 25 seconds. The puck was cleared out of the zone…and out of play. But luckily for the USA, the puck landed in the bench, and not out of play. Soon the penalty was over, and the sides were finally at even stren…hold that thought. Immediately after, and I mean immediately after the penalty ended, Ryan Hartman (game-misconduct) AND Trouba received penalties at the same time, giving Canada two whole minutes of 5-on-3 play. The parade to the penalty box was unbelievable to watch.
Team Canada sent out their best players with 3:30 left in regulation but Team USA managed to kill off both penalties. Right as the 2-man advantage ended for Canada, Nugent-Hopkins received a penalty for hitting from behind, giving the USA one final chance to pull even with Canada. There was 1:37 left to play when the penalty occurred. During the next 97 seconds, the Americans poured on the pressure. Shot after shot, save after save. Subban saved the game many times in the final minute. He was the MVP of the game for sure.
There were no excuses for the young American team. Too many penalties, and they let their emotions get the better of them. Overall, it was a great game between two great teams.
Canada is automatically in the playoff round along with Russia. Team USA takes on Slovakia tomorrow at 5:00 AM ET.
The Top 3 teams in both Groups advance. After this game, the United States and Slovakia are tied at 3 points in the standings, with tomorrow’s game being an elimination game.
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