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World Juniors 2017: Canada vs. USA Recap — Americans use strong defence to claim Group B title

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Americans steal Canada’s thunder for a 3-1 victory on New Year’s Eve.

2015 IIHF World Junior Championship - Quarterfinal - United States v Russia Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

After coasting through their first three games of the round robin, an undefeated Team Canada met their first real test against the 3-0 Americans today. Canada chose to go with Connor Ingram in net; his second game of the tournament after a six-save shutout versus Slovakia. The US went back to Joseph Woll, who led his team to a 5-2 victory on Wednesday, also against Slovakia.

Despite a quick start off the opening faceoff, things slowed down a little with seven minor penalties called in the first period. Canada went 0-for-3 on the power play, with their first shot coming nearly eight minutes into the period, while the U.S. scored two power-play goals in under seven minutes.

Colin White, one of only two American players returning this year, now has a goal in each of USA’s four games so far, and Arizona first-rounder Clayton Keller had the primary assist on both White’s goal and Jordan Greenway’s less than two minutes later.

The schedule of group play may have worked to the Americans’ advantage this year. They had a chance to build up to this game, while Canada opened against Russia and then won two easy outings against Slovakia and Latvia. The Canadians spent most of the first two periods struggling to find a rhythm, their only goal coming on a 5-on-3 power play halfway through the second.

USA captain Luke Kunin received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for an interference penalty that took Philippe Myers out of the game, and Thomas Chabot sent a rebound past Woll after Charlie McAvoy was sent to the box on a tripping call.

That PPG seemed to give Canada the spark they needed, but they were unable to capitalize on the renewed energy, and Leafs prospect Jeremy Bracco scored for the USA — the first goal of the game that did not come on a power play.

Team USA started out the third period with back-to-back power plays, but Canada managed to hold them scoreless for the period. Tyson Jost joined Dylan Strome and Michael McLeod on Canada’s top line for the final twenty minutes, with Pierre-Luc Dubois slotting into Jost’s old spot with Nicolas Roy and Julien Gauthier. Myers did not return to the game after taking a hit from USA’s Kunin, bumping Kale Clague up to top defence pairing with Chabot.

Some confusion late in the game led to 4-on-4 hockey for the final minute, with both teams getting called for too many men. Canada pulled Ingram for the fifth skater, but they were unable to get any more pucks into the USA net, and the final score was 3-1 in favour of the Americans.

Ingram made 17 saves on 20 shots for Canada, but Woll showed him up with a 25-save performance and the win. Player of the Game honours were awarded to Chabot for Canada and Ryan Lindgren for the United States.

This has to be a disappointment for a Canadian team that dominated their first three games of the tournament, but they’ll have a chance to put things back together in the quarter-final on Monday. Their play improved throughout the game, but they cannot afford to take so many penalties when they’re up against an opponent with a power play as strong as the US. Both teams are moving on to the quarter-finals, although their opponents are yet to be determined. Canada is headed to Montreal, and USA will stay in Toronto.