U18WMC: Going For Gold… Again. — USA-CAN Semifinal Recap

The game lived up to the hype. USA-Canada II was everything we thought it would be. The U.S. managed to pull off the 2-1 win in the semifinals at the 2012 IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship to advance to the gold-medal game against Sweden Sunday.

Kyle Osterberg celebrates his GWG (Photo: HHOF/IIHF Images on Ice)

It was another classic defensive effort out of Team USA, with a couple of opportunistic goals to pull off the 2-1 win. The U.S. and Canada have met in the semis three of the last four years at the World U18s, and each time the U.S. has come out ahead by just one goal.

Kyle Osterberg’s wraparound tally 6:26 into the third period stood up to be the game-winner. Osterberg made his limited ice time count against Canada with his good speed. After the goal, the U.S. simply shut down Canada, with Collin Olson making sure the door remained shut.

It seems like every game the U.S. pulls off what can only be considered “team wins.” Every line contributes in some way and each D pairing provided the steady presence in the defensive zone. Team USA has also gotten consistent goaltending with Collin Olson, who made 21 saves in the win.

Coming up after the jump, a look at the U.S. goals scored and top performers from the 2-1 win over Canada.

J.T. Compher notched his first goal of the tournament after throwing the puck on net. Despite not getting a lot on the shot, the puck found its way through Matt Murray to make it 1-0 in the first.

Canada’s Gemel Smith knotted it up late in the first for Canada on a redirected shot.

The second period went scoreless, with the U.S. hitting a few posts. It was a dominant performance, with the U.S. out-shooting Canada 10-5.

In the third, Kyle Osterberg scored the game-winner after Seth Jones’ slapper missed wide. Osterberg slipped past the defense with speed, picked up the loose puck and wrapped it from left post to right post, tucking it just inside the latter and past Murray.

After that, the U.S. needed to hold off the Canadian attack for 13:34. Team USA’s defense and Collin Olson shut it down. Canada kept pushing until the final whistle, but were unable to find the back of the net. Olson made several key stops, as Canada managed 10 shots in the third.

Top Performers

Matt Lane — Lane was named Team USA’s player of the game, posting one assist. He and Seth Jones are tied for the team lead with seven points apiece. Lane may not have lit up the scoreboard, but he did play a gritty game against Canada. His speed and relentless forechecking were difficult on Canada’s tired D. Lane won a lot of puck battles and got to a lot of loose pucks. He’s had a heck of a tournament so far.

Seth Jones — With two assists, Jones had another terrific game at both ends of the ice. Canada’s tough forecheck was no match for Jones. His calm demeanor in his own zone, despite all of the pressure he faced, never ceased. It’s easy to forget that in addition to being a gifted defender, Jones has incredible puck skills for a player of his size. He was able to shake players with relative ease in order to turn it up the ice or find a good outlet pass. It seems like he just keeps getting better every game, too.

Kyle Osterberg — In addition to the big goal, Osterberg played with speed and tenacity. Osterberg hasn’t seen regular shifts in the tournament, but he made the most of his opportunities against Canada. When at his best, Osterberg can be shifty and pest-like. His short stature doesn’t get in the way of his ability to get to pucks and create.

J.T. Compher — The 1995-born forward continues to impress with his tenacious fore-checking. His line with Frankie Vatrano and Matt Lane has been Team USA’s most energetic and probably the toughest to play against for opponents. Though the goal wasn’t necessarily pretty, it was a result of good pressure down low, with all three forwards getting involved on the forecheck and the ensuing cycle.

Collin Olson — Olson is currently the leading goaltender in the tournament with a 1.00 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. His 21-save performance against Canada was another strong effort for the U.S. goaltender. There wasn’t much he could do about the lone Canadian goal, coming on a redirection, but he settled back in and gave his team every opportunity to win.

Thomas Di Pauli — Di Pauli quietly had a pretty strong game for the U.S. His possession skills in the offensive zone are high end. He was able to use his good skating and nifty puck handling to confuse Canadian defensemen in the corners and give himself every opportunity to find a lane to the net or an open teammate. He has a pretty good frame, too and wasn’t ever getting out-worked down low. It wasn’t flashy, but it was important to Team USA’s success to be able to establish sustained possession and pressure.

The U.S. has Saturday off as it looks to take on Sweden in the gold-medal game. It will be the third consecutive meeting between these two countries in the World U18 Championship finale. The U.S. has come out on top in the last two meetings by rather close margins.

It should be the most exciting game of the tournament to date. Both teams are undefeated heading in and both were expected to be in this position at the start of the tournament. Wouldn’t have it any other way, I suppose. Expect a full preview soon on United States of Hockey.

Game time is set for Sunday at 4 p.m. local (10 a.m. EDT). You can catch the broadcast live on FASTHockey.com.


About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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