The Canadians appeared unstoppable at the World Juniors. That was until the Americans put on a shot-blocking clinic to claim first place in Group B with a 3-1 win Saturday in their final preliminary-round game at the Air Canada Centre.
“[Shot blocking] is such a big part of hockey now,” said U.S. coach Bob Motzko. “The guys who want the big minutes know they have to get in the (shooting and passing) lanes.”
Jordan Greenway contributed on all three goals, scoring the game winner and America’s second power play goal of the game 6:04 into the first period.
Colin White also scored on the man advantage and Jeremy Bracco scored the third goal for the U.S., five minutes after Canada’s Thomas Chabot trimmed the lead to one with a goal on a two-man advantage.
The States finished the round robin undefeated at 4-0 and will face Switzerland in Monday’s quarterfinal.
“Whether we swept it or lost a couple, it’s about staying even keel and sticking to what we know,” Bracco said. “We’re feeling really good about ourselves, but nothing’s accomplished yet.”
Often scheduled to face each other on New Year’s Eve, the U.S. won its first New Year’s Eve game against Canada in 18 years. The Canadians won six and tied one against the States over that span.
Canada will be challenged in the playoff portion of the tournament as 6-foot-5 defenceman Philippe Myers suffered a concussion after he was hit hard by U.S. captain Luke Kunin in the second.
Kunin was ejected from the game and Myers’ return to the tournament is doubtful.
Mitchell Stephens was also out for Canada, missing his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Joseph Woll stopped 25 shots for the U.S and Connor Ingram turned aside 17 for Canada.
Canadian assistant captain Mathew Barzal credited the U.S. for playing a more desperate game. He added that if Canada was going to face any adversity, he’d rather it be now instead of in the playoffs.
“It’s nice to see that’s what it’s going to take to win now,” he said.
“We know we have to come out and play desperate and know every shift counts.”
Up next for the Canadians are the Czech Republic in Monday’s quarterfinal in Montreal. They faced each other twice before tournament, during Canada’s selection camp and in a pre-tournament game in Ottawa.
Canada outscored the Czechs 13-0 in those games, but Dominique Ducharme explained that it’s a whole new tournament now and there’s things to fix that were evident against the States.
“Our power play has been doing well, but we need to be getting more offence 5-on-5,” Ducharme said.
“I thought our execution was a bit off … We’ve learned from it, we’re growing as a group. Now, we’re starting a new tournament in Montreal and we’ll be ready for it.”
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