From start to finish, the U.S. National Junior Team outplayed Canada and handed its North American rival a 5-1 defeat to earn a trip to the gold-medal game at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. Team USA now awaits the winner of Russia-Sweden.
Team USA played its most complete game of the tournament and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Going up against a Canadian squad with its full arsenal, including 11 first-round NHL Draft picks, one Calder Trophy finalist, two projected top-3 NHL Draft picks and the tournament’s most efficient scoring team, the U.S. allowed just one goal.
“I still don’t think anyone has seen our best hockey” Jake McCabe, Team USA’s captain told USAHockey.com before today’s game. “The team that improves the most throughout the tournament is the team that generally wins the tournament so I think that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Based on the last three games, it appears that the U.S. is peaking at the right time.
Today’s win marks a major milestone for the U.S., as it is just the sixth victory all-time for Team USA over Canada at the World Junior Championship. The two previous victories in the last nine years for the U.S. came in gold-medal games, but the Americans have struggled mightily with their biggest rival at this stage of the tournament.
Coming off of last year’s embarrassing seventh-place finish, USA Hockey can officially turn the page. And coming up after the jump, a comprehensive recap of Team USA’s 5-1 semifinal win.
Team USA Scoring Summary, Stats
Goals: Jake McCabe (2), Johnny Gaudreau (2), Jimmy Vesey. (Canada goal: Ty Rattie)
Assists: J.T. Miller (2), Mike Reilly, Riley Barber, John Gaudreau, Jimmy Vesey, Jake McCabe, Rocco Grimaldi, Vince Trocheck, John Gibson
Saves/GA: John Gibson – 33/1
Other stats of note…
— All five of Team USA’s goals were scored at even strength. Additionally, all five goals were scored by U.S. college hockey players, which is probably incomprehensible for Don Cherry.
— Johnny Gaudreau now has a tournament-best seven goals. All seven have come in the last three games, each of which were elimination games. Gaudreau also took over the U.S. lead by collecting his ninth point of the tournament on his second goal today.
— Jake McCabe’s three-point day gives him six for the tournament, which ranks third among all defenseman at the WJC. McCabe trails only teammates Jacob Trouba’s eight points and Seth Jones’ seven.
— John Gibson is the tournament’s best netminder with a .954 save percentage and 1.42 goals-against average. Gibson’s .954 mark ranks first all-time for an American in a single WJC, while his 1.42 GAA ranks third. He’ll have to finish strong in the gold medal game, but this WJC will go down as one of the greatest ever for an American netminder. He’ll be the tournament’s directorate award winner regardless of result Saturday. There’s really no other choice.
— Team USA dominated at the faceoff dot. Three of its four regular centers had a 63 percent success rate or better. J.T. Miller finished with the percentage, winning 75 percent of his 12 draws, but Vincent Trocheck won 14 of 19.
— The U.S. came into the game as the tournament’s most penalized team and only took three penalties the entire game.
— The U.S. out-shot Canada 42-34.
— Team USA now has 31 total goals in the tournament and has outscored its last three opponents 21-4. In each of the last three games Team USA faced elimination.
Here’s the official game sheet (IIHF)
Team USA’s player statistics through six games (IIHF)
— The U.S. absolutely had its best night in all facets. It even stayed out of the box mostly, which was a huge concern coming in. Defensively, the U.S. didn’t allow a ton, but when Canada found the holes, John Gibson was there.
— The turning point of the game for me was John Gibson’s point-blank robbery of Ryan Strome. The U.S. was up 3-0 at that point and Canada cutting it to a much more manageable two-goal deficit would have changed the complexion of the entire game. Gibson made all the saves you expect him to and a few that you didn’t. He also got Strome with a quick glove save early in the third period of the game.
— The weird thing about the Canada goal was that it should and shouldn’t have counted. The referee mistakenly blew the whistle before the puck had crossed the line. There was no reason to blow the whistle, but he did. As a result, the whistle kills the play and it should have been no goal. Essentially the ref covered up the mistake with another mistake, but got it right… does that make sense?
— Phil Housley has been questioned from the second he was named the head coach of this team. The use of Alex Galchenyuk from the way the D was constructed to the fact that he is a high school coach. Every single adjustment he and his staff has made since the first Canada game has paid off it seems. A quick look at the three major moves that very well could have made all the difference for the U.S.:
1. Rocco Grimaldi benched for Slovakia game for selfish play, Jimmy Vesey inserted to top line. Grimaldi comes back from benching playing with Tyler Biggs and Vince Trocheck and has new life, making the line more potent. Vesey clicks with J.T. Miller and Johnny Gaudreau and the U.S. has a legit No. 1 scoring line. Gaudreau and Miller were quiet until Vesey got bumped up, but have been Team USA’s best producers since.
2. Jake McCabe replaces Mike Reilly on top pairing with Seth Jones. Reilly had struggled with the minutes he was getting and Jones never got terribly comfortable with that pairing, struggling through the middle two games. McCabe needed more minutes and has been right up there as one of Team USA’s best defensemen since the promotion. Meanwhile, Reilly was freed up to play a more offensive role with Connor Murphy in more cautiously selected minutes.
3. Vince Trocheck inserted to No. 1 power-play unit with Johnny Gaudreau and J.T. Miller. The U.S. scored nine power-play goals as a team after this maneuver was made, most of which came with that line on the ice.
That’s just good coaching and good identification of what works and what doesn’t. Team USA hasn’t deviated much from its game plan coming into the tournament, but it took a little while to find the right mix. Now that they have it, they’re 60 minutes from gold. Tough to make those calls in these short events.
— The U.S. did such a better job of creating traffic and enforcing down the middle of the ice. That led to some second-chance opportunities and screens. Team USA’s first goal by Jake McCabe had four Americans down low surrounding the slot, with two Canadians screening their own goalie. Getting that net-front presence, even when from the Canadian D was big.
— Team USA took what they were given. They created offense on the rush and it led to goals. The team speed was evident and the U.S. simply was the faster, harder-working team.
Here’s the breakdown from TSN with extensive highlights…
And just for fun, the highlights in
Russian Swedish… These guys are great.
Jake McCabe — Team USA’s captain was named the player of the game and he deserves it. A force at both ends of the ice, his two goals in the first period set the tone for the game and allowed the U.S. to take control. Both goals were aided by net-front presence and screens, but McCabe’s shot was on the money on both occasions. Those were two high-pressure goals and the captain delivered. McCabe as also terrific in his own end, shutting down opposing forwards and aiding the transition with good up-ice passing.
John Gibson – A really strong case for Gibson could be made for him to have been player of the game, but he’s undoubtedly been Team USA’s MVP for the whole tournament. The aforementioned saves on Strome were huge. Gibson also had a big one on an open look from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on a third-period power play. He has done everything expected of him and more. Coming into the tournament I thought Gibson was the only way the U.S. gets to the gold-medal game and he’s done the job.
Johnny Gaudreau — After a slow start to the tournament, Johnny Gaudreau is on fire. With seven tallies in his last three games, he’s been Team USA’s most deadly forward. His devastating toe drag on Ryan Murphy followed by an absolute snipe over Subban was one of the better U.S. goals of the tournament. All he needed was to get that one goal and he was off. He was also the only U.S. player to solve Jordan Binnington who replaced Subban today, wiring a wrister to twist the dagger.
Seth Jones — He didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but Jones was fantastic in all zones today. He’s been terrific really since after the first period against Canada. Jones was probably the best defender today and his puck-moving skills were well on display today. He was borderline dominant for much of the game and looked like a guy who could go No. 1 overall in June.
Jacob Trouba — Trouba brought some physicality, but he also showed off the skill that has made him the tournament’s top-scoring defender. He very well could end up as the directorate award winner for the tournament’s best defenseman with the way he’s played. Trouba has been the most consistent guy from start to finish for the Americans and has affected the game at both ends of the ice. His development over the last two years has been something else.
J.T. Miller — Using his size and speed to get pucks to the net, Miller had two more assists today. He seems to have finally clicked with Gaudreau and those guys are just finding each other. Adding Vesey to the mix proved important, but Miller has elevated his play in the last three games. It doesn’t always look pretty with Miller, but he finds a way to make plays and has done so expertly the last few contests.
Jimmy Vesey — With a goal today, Vesey has become perhaps the best story of the tournament. He almost didn’t make this team. Then he was the 13th forward. Then he gradually earned more ice and then the U.S. gave him a shot on the top unit and it’s been paying dividends daily. Vesey’s power move and finish on his goal was special. It was not an easy one to score, but the shot was perfectly-placed on the too-deep Subban.
The Grind Line — I could mention each guy individually, but this line succeeds as a group more than any other for the U.S. Even though the U.S. wasn’t able to always get the match-ups that they wanted for these guys, they were able to adjust their game as the situation dictated it. Cole Bardreau was good on faceoffs. Blake Pietila was terrific on the forecheck and winning battles along the boards. Ryan Hartman was able to create some offense, while also playing a smart, physical game. All three guys have embraced their roles and without them, the U.S. may not be here. You have to have something from your depth guys and they’ve been answering the bell.
Rocco Grimaldi — His benching was probably a hard pill to swallow, but you can tell a lot more about a player’s character by how he responds to something like that. Grimaldi played like his hair was on fire the last two games and had an assist on the second goal. He also nearly gift-wrapped a hat-trick goal for Jake McCabe with one of the most *unselfish* and smart plays you’ll see. He left a perfect drop pass after getting in behind the D, but McCabe couldn’t find the finish. He has made the Trocheck line better and gives the U.S. more speed down the left side.
Vince Trocheck — Dominance in the faceoff circle and an excellent all-around game, Trocheck hasn’t had the production he probably had hoped, but he’s making an impact in other ways. Trocheck has displayed some versatility in playing more of an energy-line role at times, while bringing some high-end offensive ability on the power play. He got a good bounce for a point today as the puck skittered off his skate to McCabe for the second U.S. goal.
Alex Galchenyuk — Though held off the scoresheet for the first time in the tournament, Galchenyuk was looking good in limited ice. There have been many complaints about how he’s been used, but it’s paying off. Getting him involved in key offensive situations makes him more effective. He had a few good chances today, but the pucks weren’t falling in for him. He’s so skilled that it doesn’t take much for him to make a difference. While he was quiet today, he was mostly good and has been all tournament.
Mike Reilly — Reilly deserves a lot of credit for his role on Team USA’s first goal. He helped spark the transition to get players down ice and then earned an assist by getting the puck near the net and following the play. He’s an offensively gifted player and he has been able to show that a lot more the last three games.
Connor Murphy — So often Murphy hasn’t been mentioned in these sections, but in all honesty, he’s been terrific throughout the tournament. He doesn’t play as much as Jones and Trouba, but when he’s out there, he’s been dependable. He was very good defensively today and is one of the smarter hockey players on the roster. Guys like him will be big in the gold-medal game.
Tyler Biggs — Biggs has had more scoring opportunities than I can count and hasn’t converted on any of them, but that said, he’s been so good down-low for the U.S. He’s excelling in the offensive zone at everything but scoring. He’s winning battles along the boards, and even showing that he can create some time and space for his linemates by using his size and physicality.
Patrick Sieloff — Another effective game for Sieloff who is making the U.S. staff look smart for making him the last defenseman to make the team. He was paired with Jacob Trouba and Canada had a lot of trouble generating chances against those two. He didn’t expect to get top-four minutes in this tournament, but he’s earned that opportunity with the way he’s played so far.
Sean Kuraly — Kuraly had a very up and down game, but you can see what a guy with his speed and size can do to apply pressure. Though their ice time has been minimal compared to other lines, there’s always some excitement created when Kuraly is out there with Galchenyuk and Riley Barber.
Riley Barber — Barber had a few good opportunities today and has been strong for a lot of the tournament. He has such good speed and as he continues to build strength, he could develop into a really solid offensive contributor. He’s going to be a guy Team USA will lean on heavily in 2014, but first they need a big game from him on Saturday.
Shayne Gostisbehere — He didn’t play much coming off the suspension, but his offensive ability can just wow you some times. He has such good instincts and that speed is really something. He might not have had a huge role today, but he’s going to be a special player down the road.
The U.S. will now await the winner of Sweden-Russia. Once the gold-medal game opponent is decided, you can expect an extensive preview of the championship game on United States of Hockey. Until then…