The United States dominated Canada to earn themselves a victory and a place in the Gold Medal game on Saturday.
This was probably the best game of the tournament so far and likely a game that will be talked about over the next few years. A gritty and talented American side who had been handed a bitter 2-1 defeat by Canada in the round robin section of the tournament came back to beat one of the most talented sides that Canada has been able to assemble for a World Junior Hockey Championship. This victory put the USA into the Gold Medal game and means that Canada will have to face off against the loser of the Sweden- Russia game for the Bronze Medal.
The game started as it was to go on, with lots of physicality and a lot of effective American pressure. By the end of the first period Jake McCabe had managed to put two goals by Canadian Netminder and Boston Bruins' draft pick Malcolm Subban. Throughout this first period it was clear that Canada had simply not turned up to this game, their defenders in particular were all over the place. At one point early in the game three American forwards were able to be active on the edge of the crease with little or zero pressure from the two Canadian defenseman. The first goal came after McCabe managed to get a shot through a huge pile in front of the crease that Malcolm Subban never saw. The second goal came in similar circumstances with a shot that was deflected through a mass of bodies.
During the second period one of standout players for the United States was Johnny Gaudreau, A Calgary Flames draft pick, Aka Johnny Hockey. He scored for the USA early in the second period with a nice move through the Canadian defence and a good shot which beat Subban. Jimmy Vesey put another shot past Subban and drove him from the net where he was replaced by Jordan Binnington. Though some might blame Subban for letting in those four goals its clear that there was enough blame to be spread around. The first two goals were due primarily to screening from his own defenseman and the third goal he was screened by an American forward. If you can't see the puck coming towards you its very hard to stop it.
The Canadians launched a surge early in the third period with Ty Rattie scoring a controversial goal. The linesman, incorrectly, whistled the play dead and the Canadians scored shortly after this. However the goal stood as the blown whistle was wrong. Technically, despite the whistle being incorrect, this goal should not have stood. This will join several over complaints about IIHF refereeing throughout this tournament.
Anaheim Ducks prospect John Gibson was stellar in net for the Americans and was probably the main reason why they were able to hold off a Canadian team that, on paper, should have dominated this tournament. He made save after save and repeatedly stonewalled Ryan Strome, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Drouin and Brett Ritchie. If it wasn't for his play I doubt that the USA would have been able to get to the Gold Medal game. Gaudreau got a final insurance goal late in the third period which put the USA 5-1 up with less than five minutes to go which all but certain sealed an American victory and a place in the Gold Medal game.
Who will face the USA will be decided in the other semi final today between hosts Russia and last years winners Sweden at 8am Eastern. The Gold Medal game is this saturday.