The game certainly lived up to the hype as USA and Canada played another one-goal game on New Year’s Eve. Canada earned the 3-2 win thanks to a strong second half of the game after the U.S. clearly dominated the first portion of it. The loss puts Team USA in second place in Group A, setting up a quarterfinal date on Jan. 2 with rival Russia at 6 a.m. ET.
It was another exciting game in the USA-Canada World Junior series, but Canada has been near impossible for the Americans to beat in the preliminary round for some reason. The U.S. remains winless in the prelims since 1998 over their North American rival. The sting intensifies a little as the road to the gold medal gets a heck of a lot tougher by losing the group after needing just one standings point to clinch it.
The U.S. path to gold definitely includes Russia, almost certainly Sweden in the semifinals and if Canada makes it, a date with the Canadians in the gold medal game. They have to beat Russia first of course, which will be no easy task. If they don’t, their tournament is over far sooner than even they could have anticipated.
So the real tournament starts now. The U.S. gets a dose of adversity heading into the playoff round, but there were enough positives to be taken out of the loss to Canada for Team USA to go into the next stage with some confidence. You never want to lose to your biggest rival, especially to lose the group, but there was a lot to be learned about this U.S. team today.
USA Scoring Summary
1. Riley Barber (Slavin, Kerdiles), 3:29 (sh) — About a second after Team USA went shorthanded, Jaccob Slavin got to a loose puck and pushed it below the goal line to Barber. Team USA’s captain then wrapped the puck around and inside the left post to make it 1-0.
2. Stefan Matteau (Fasching, Butcher), 17:15 — USA was trailing 3-1 at this point and a great rush started by Hudson Fasching led to a nice pass to Stefan Matteau whose hard wrist shot bounced out of the glove of Zach Fucale, off a defenseman’s stick and in to make it 3-2.
Jon Gillies — 21 saves on 24 shots
Other Stats of Note:
– For the first time in the tournament, the U.S. failed to score on the power play. They had only three opportunities with the man advantage, though.
– USA’s PK allowed one goal on five disadvantages.
– Jack Eichel won seven of 10 draws, while Andrew Copp — Team USA’s best faceoff man coming into the game only won five of 17.
– Jack Eichel led Team USA with five shots on goal.
– Team USA narrowly out-shot Canada 26-24, which included a 13-6 advantage in a dominant first period.
Here are the full video highlights of the game:
Team USA General Notes
– With the loss, the U.S. will meet Russia in the quarterfinal Thursday at 6 a.m. ET. The game will be carried live, with all quarterfinal games on NHL Network. The U.S. game will also stream live on NHL.com. I’ll have a full preview on New Year’s Day. With a fantastic goaltender in Andrei Vasilevski and some high skill players, this is going to be an absolute battle and should be the most entertaining QF matchup.
– The game really flipped on its head after Team USA allowed Canada’s first goal. It came on the heels of an incredible shift by the U.S. highlighted by Andrew Copp winning a board battle and creating a golden opportunity for Hudson Fasching. The puck went all the way down, Team USA’s D couldn’t collect it and it freed up Anthony Mantha to make a nice pass to Nic Petan for the finish. After that, the U.S. went from in control to on a level playing field. A lot of that is due to the way Canada elevated its play. They became a tougher team after that goal and the U.S. push-back wasn’t fast enough to squash the momentum.
– The U.S. dominated the first period with their strength and physicality. They dictated the pace, closed on Canadians with the puck incredibly quickly, won a lot of battles and races and just were start-to-finish better. That continued through the first bit of the second period and helped lead to the first goal. Then Canada scored and the game changed. The game got tougher, more than anything, and the U.S. had to figure out how to play on a level playing field as opposed to one that was coming easily to them.
– The U.S. took three minor penalties in the third period. The last one against Stefan Matteau was a very soft call as his stick got tangled up with a Canadian forward. That power play led to Canada’s third goal and put the U.S. in a really tough hole to get out of. That’s how important special teams can be though. The U.S. corrected their issues at 5v5 for the most part, but then didn’t get the stops they needed on special teams.
– Hats off to Canadian goalie Zach Fucale, who was simply fantastic in the game save for the second goal against. He made some key saves for Canada that kept the game close when USA was dominating in the first and then made a few key saves late, none bigger than the one on Connor Carrick on a breakaway. He kept things settled for Canada and allowed them to play their game worry free about the guy between the pipes.
– The U.S. is now winless in the prelims against Canada since 1998. There’s always something it seems in these games where the U.S. plays great for a stretch and just can’t maintain it. Not only that, but where Canada is really good is once they get that first goal. It’s almost like they lift the weight of the game off their shoulders and get new life. I’ve seen it so many times at this tournament, which is what makes Canada so deadly at the World Juniors. If you can’t put them away early and you let them improve as the game goes on, more times than not, they’re going to win.
– Team USA’s speed game got lost somewhere in the middle of the game. Their transitions to either zone were sloppy and turnover filled. I think nerves were starting to get the better of them once Canada really started pushing back. When Team USA lost the pace they played with in the first period, they lost the rhythm and ultimately let the game get away from them.
– The U.S. got scrambley on the PK during Canada’s first goal. If you start running around on Canada, with a guy like Jonathan Drouin on the ice, you’re in trouble. On their other PKs, the U.S. did well and actually used their speed to generate some good shorthanded chances. Riley Barber’s goal was technically scored shorthanded, only because a Canadian penalty ended about a second before he put it in.
– Canada’s second goal shouldn’t have happened if Team USA was better at cleaning up the net front. Connor McDavid outworked Nic Kerdiles for a puck in front and just barely slipped it home. It didn’t help that Kerdiles slipped on the play, but you have to find a way to win that battle.
– All-in-all, the U.S. didn’t play a complete enough game. The intensity dropped a bit and it led to a loss. That said, they didn’t play their best and hung with a good hockey team for 60 minutes, falling just one goal shy of winning the group. They are going to have a tough draw in the quarterfinals no matter what, but this is a good game to test them for single-elimination. When the U.S. was at their best, they were dominant down low. They were physical and fast. If they can find that game again, they’re going to be very tough to beat when the games matter most.
Riley Barber - Named Team USA’s player of the game, he was very good early and was one of the bigger threats the U.S. had throughout the game. His speed and strength were evident and he had a few good chances to make some things happen late. Team USA’s captain scored the first goal on a nice move on the wraparound and had three shots in the game.
Jon Gillies – Tough to hang any of the goals on Gillies. He didn’t give up any softies out there. He needed some help from his D in odd-man situations and didn’t get it. Other than that, he made some good saves, stayed poised throughout the game and never really lost his net. It’s a tough loss for him to swallow, but USA doesn’t have any concern in net.
Matt Grzelcyk — Grzelcyk was so good early in the game and remained pretty solid throughout. He was on the ice for the first Canadian goal which turned the tide and was one of two U.S. defenseman who couldn’t corral a puck. Other than that though, Grzelcyk was a factor due to his speed and poise with the puck.
Connor Carrick — Aside from missing on the breakaway, on the exact same move he made to score his first career NHL goal, Carrick was very good defensively. He was physical and controlled the puck well for the most part. He played the game fast and made some things happen throughout.
Hudson Fasching — I thought Fasching had some of the best shifts by any U.S. forward in the game. He had a shorthanded breakaway stuffed by Fucale, but was dominant down low. He was doing a good job getting pucks to the net, showed that he can separate himself more with his skating and a few favorable bounces, he might have had some points. He was very good for a lot of the game, probably the best player on Team USA’s energy line.
Jack Eichel — Team USA’s most dangerous forward for a lot of the game, Eichel nearly scored himself when he sent a seemingly weak shot on net, but Fucale squeezed the pads just before it went through. He had five shots in the game and generated a lot of chances. The one thing I didn’t like was Eichel trying to do a little too much in the second period when the game was starting to turn Canada’s way. He’s a young guy and I think he tried to put the team on his back a bit, but his shot selection wasn’t great in the middle of the game. He had a lot into legs and that led to turnovers. Other than that though, his speed, his strength on the puck and his patience for much of the game was remarkable. Eichel is some kind of player.
Adam Erne — I thought Erne was as noticeable in this game as any before. He’s had a kind of middling tournament and has been snake bit as well, but I liked the way he played today. He has some really good jump and physical strength. If he asserts himself more like he did through much of this game, I think he’ll have more success in the tournament.
Steven Santini — Again, I thought Santini was consistently one of Team USA’s best overall defenders. He was physical, he was smart and I really liked his decisions with the puck today. He’s a better skater than he’s been given credit for and does a nice job of getting the puck out of trouble.
Will Butcher — I really liked Butcher throughout the game. I thought he made a lot of nice simple plays offensively and made the U.S. more dangerous in the offensive zone throughout the game. He was very solid in making plays at the offensive blue line and keeping plays alive. his puckmoving throughout the tournament has been sound.
Jaccob Slavin — Slavin looked a little uncomfortable early in the game, but settled down nicely and earned some more playing time. He did lose the puck on Canada’s first goal, but where he was better was with the decisions he made when he had the puck. He was more settled and confident. He assisted on Barber’s goal by getting in deep and winning a race to a puck as well. That was good to see.
Stefan Matteau — I’ve liked the way Matteau has played throughout the tournament, though he has taken a few too many penalties. The one against him today was a soft call, but unfortunately that’s how it can go some times. Matteau’s size and speed was a factor a lot today and he plays hard every game. He was a big part of making that team so good in the first period with the way he was driving the net and making plays in the offensive zone physically.
Tommy Di Pauli – I thought Di Pauli made his entire line better throughout the game. He used his speed well and showed some poise in each zone. I thought he was really active on the PK as well and made some nice plays including a chance shorthanded. His speed and defensive awareness are real assets and will be against Russia.
That’s it for today’s recap. Check back tomorrow for a preview of the upcoming quarterfinal game with Russia. It’s going to be a crazy one, I’m sure.