Canada and the USA took to the ice for the latest instalment of their rivalry on Friday afternoon. Unlike the previous meetings in their history, this one was contested outdoors at New Era Field in Buffalo.
The heated battle played out in frigid conditions, with the temperature around -10℃ before the start of the game, and the wind and snow arriving just in time for puck drop.
Despite the conditions, both teams began the game with a lot of energy, with none of the slow-paced conservative minutes that usually come with outdoor games. The pace was fast with lots of attempts at rushing the puck.
The first chance to score came when Dylan Samberg went to the box for a high-sticking minor less than three minutes into the game. The Canadians had several shots on goal before Cale Makar got the puck at the top of the circle and beat Jake Oettinger with his shot.
Makar opens the scoring, puts Canada up 1-0 on the power play pic.twitter.com/2GfNicB3Yr— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2017
The conditions weren’t really conducive to high-skill plays, meaning puck movement was mostly achieved through skating and short passes. With the pace, it still allowed for some exciting hockey, but also made it a tight-checking opening period with man-on-man coverage proving to be the most effective method of defending.
The checking was a bit too tight by Jonah Gadjovich, who sent the US to a power play after hitting his man into the boards from behind. The Americans had just two shots on their power play, and Carter Hart was steady in his goal, zeroed in on finding the puck through what must have been difficult visibility.
Ryan Lindgren attempted to break his focus with a snow shower in the latter half of the first period. With the precipitation accumulating on the ice throughout the first period, that left the Canadian goaltender digging himself out of about half a ton of snow.
Mikey Anderson lost his footing while battling for a puck, and latched onto the stick of a Canadian player to compensate. Unfortunately for him, it was detected by the referee, sending Canada to a second power play.
The man advantage looked good for Canada again, as they were able to maintain possession of the puck right around the slot while looking for a shot. Dillon Dube found the one they were looking for, launching a perfect shot from about the same place Makar’s opener had come from, and bringing the same result for his team.
Flames prospect Dillon Dube makes it 2-0 with Canada’s second PPG pic.twitter.com/P59ESK9zg9— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2017
Canada immediately gave Team USA a chance to return the favour, with Maxime Comtois heading to the box for tripping, but once again the Americans only managed to put two pucks on net, with Hart getting in front of both.
With the clock ticking down in the opening frame, Will Lockwood took the puck toward the net on a one-on-three, pulling the puck around Victor Mete and getting a shot off that hit the far-side post. Mete was forced to get his stick on the forward after being beat, leaving for the dressing room with the majority of a minor penalty still on the board for the second period.
Canada was able to kill off the minor, and Mete almost got redemption for both the defensive miscue and the penalty. Right out of the box, he picked up the puck and went in on a breakaway, but Oettinger got his pad on the shot.
The snow really began to fall at that point, bringing the ice crew out at each stoppage to cart it off in wheelbarrows. Their efforts did allow for the game to stay at a surprisingly quick pace with the conditions it was being played in, so they deserve a lot of credit for contributing to the show playing out on the ice.
The accumulation did make it more difficult to make plays, but not enough to prevent the US from getting a few odd-man chances. Mete found himself having to defend two of them in the second period, and used good positioning and an effective stick to help thwart both.
Around the 15-minute mark, Canada went down two men, with first Brett Howden being sent off for cross-checking, then Alex Formenton being undisciplined and jabbing an opponent in the face with his stick.
Victor Mete had an effective shift on the three-on-five, getting his stick on pucks around his net while also rushing to cover all the players on his side of the ice. His unit helped Canada survive the first wave and get in a change.
It didn’t take long for the American to capitalize on the second wave, however, as they set up in the offensive zone and got the puck to Kieffer Bellow. He ripped a shot off the post and in that sent a ping ringing around New Era Field and put his team back in the game.
Kieffer Bellows gets USA on the board with a PPG pic.twitter.com/7S6kQfjdVS— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2017
Still with time on the power play, they were unable to use it to pull even. Back at even strength, Canada came out and immediately went on offence.
Boris Katchouk was launched on a breakaway, forcing Oettinger to make a great save, but pulling the netminder out of his crease to do so. Relentless pressure from the Canadians allowed them to follow up the play with a more chances around the goalmouth. The puck eventually went back near the point with Oettinger still scrambling to regain his position, and Jake Bean simply spun and fired it toward the net, with Katchouk getting his stick on the puck to finish the play that he had initially started.
Bean tosses the puck on net and it goes in!— Flintor (@TheFlintor) December 29, 2017
The play was reviewed, perhaps to see if the puck had gone in off a hand, perhaps to check a high stick, but in the end it stood to give Canada a 3-1 lead, which they were able to take into the third period.
With about five minutes gone in the final frame, Comtois landed a dangerous hit on Lindgren from behind right into the end boards, and was lucky to be assessed just a two-minute sentence for the transgression.
It proved to be enough time for the US to capitalize, as Casey Mittelstadt found Scott Perunovich with a short pass across the slot, and the defenceman buried it to make it a one-goal game.
USA’s Scott Perunovich scores on the power play to cut the Canada lead to 3-2 pic.twitter.com/hXfmHph4w5— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2017
After a lengthy session to clear the snow from the ice, play resumed, and the Americans jumped on Canada right away. Mittelstadt got the puck around the net, and again it was a short pass from the Buffalo Sabres prospect across the ice that led to a goal, this time by Brady Tkachuk.
Mittelstadt finds Brady Tkachuk and it’s a tie game, 3-3 pic.twitter.com/6G9iGcnyBU— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 29, 2017
To make the conditions fair for both teams, the whistle sounded at the halfway point of the period, essentially setting up a 10-minute game to decide the outcome.
It was clear that both sides were a bit anxious about making mistakes in the final minutes, as they play became much more disjointed than it had for the majority of the game, despite a significant let-up in the snowfall. Neither side was able to find the winning goal in regulation, sending the game to a five-minute three-on-three overtime period.
The teams had a few looks, especially the US with Mittelstadt able to operate in open space, but ultimately no goal was scored, and the game went to a best-of-five shootout, with Canada going first.
- CAN: Sam Steel beat Oettinger, but hit the crossbar
- USA: Kieffer Bellows came in slowly, and beat Hart five-hole
- CAN: Robert Thomas tried to go five-hole, but Oettinger read it all the way
- USA: Brady Tkachuk faked a move across the net, then flipped it to the short-side corner
- CAN: Taylor Raddysh’s shot missed the net
- USA: Casey Mittelstadt was poke-checked by Hart
- CAN: Drake Batherson froze Oettinger but missed the net, causing Canada to run out of shots to tie it up
The end result was a 4-3 win for the Americans in front of nearly 45,000 people at New Era Field
Canada plays its final game of the preliminary round on Saturday night versus Denmark. The USA wraps things up versus a tough Team Finland squad on Sunday afternoon.