It’s going to be a dream matchup in the gold medal game when Canada and the United States go head-to-head with 2017 World Junior bragging rights on the line.
The proximity of the two countries to each other and the longtime rivalry between the teams in U17 or U18 tournaments should add fuel to the already burning fire and make for an emotional and entertaining final.
Both countries qualified for the big game with victories in their respective semifinals on Wednesday at the Bell Centre
Team Canada earned their way in to the championship final with a 5-2 win over Sweden.
The United States knocked off Russia 4-3 in a shootout.
“We played Canadian hockey tonight," said Canadian head coach Dominique Ducharme.
"We used our speed to take away their space and time, and played a physical game.
“We’ve got to get back at it in on Thursday and be even better.
“Playing in Toronto, or Montreal, or Europe, we’re playing for gold. It’s great to be playing at home, to have the crowd behind us. NHL teams, junior teams work to get the home-ice advantage. It’s great to have the support.
“But we’re focusing on the way we play, the way we prepare. We control what we can control we’ll be ready for Thursday night’s game.”
It didn’t start out particularly well for Canada, who were trailing 2-1, roughly eight minutes into the game after goaltender Connor Ingram allowed a pair of goals on just three shots.
Ducharme yanked Ingram at that moment and put in Carter Hart, who had not played in almost a week.
Hart ended up being perfect in relief, stopping all 28 shots that he faced, for a shutout performance in his 51:55 of ice time – unmarred partly thanks to Dante Fabbro’s quick thinking move to scoop away an errant puck that flew backwards off Hart’s glove after a shot from Jonathan Dahlen.
His efforts seem to inspire his teammates as they slowly began to find their game and started taking it to the Swedes.
Anthony Cirelli tied the game at 18:49 of the period when his quick shot beat Swedish net-minder Felix Sandstrom over the shoulder to put Canada back on even terms.
In the second period, Canada picked up the go-ahead goal when Julien Gauthier jammed a loose puck in at 12:02 to ignite his team.
Canada scored twice in the period with Dylan Strome’s marker at 7:38 while the teams were playing four-on-four.
Gauthier potted his second of the game into an empty net with 1:58 remaining.
Mitchell Stephens also scored for Canada.
Joel Eriksson Ek and Carl Grundstrom scored for Sweden, who now face off against Russia for the bronze medal at the Bell Centre on Thursday, January 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT.
The gold medal game between Canada and the United States will be played on Thursday as well beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
The Americans and Canadians met up during the preliminary round with Team USA edging Canada 3-1 on New Year’s Eve.
The United States have won gold three times, but have defeated Canada in the final on just two occasions.
In 2004, the Americans knocked off Canada when the tournament was held in Finland.
Six years later, in 2010, the U.S. beat Canada when Saskatoon and Regina played host to the World Juniors.
Their most recent victory over Canada was in 2010 in Sweden.
Last year, U.S. took home the bronze medal and Canada walked away in sixth place. Both teams have a lot on the line and if they play like they did in the semifinals, we could be in for one of the best World Junior games of all time.
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