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2023 World Juniors SF #2: United States vs. Canada recap — Thomas Milic, Joshua Roy come up clutch

Canada’s offensive depth and goaltending won the day and sent the hosts to the Gold Medal Game.

United States of America v Canada: 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Canada and the United States took to the ice at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax for the day’s second semifinal. They new their opponent for the Gold Medal Game would be Czechia after that nation won earlier in the day over Sweden.

To start the game, Team USA was the team playing with more intensity, and it quickly paid off. Earning an offensive-zone faceoff, the Americans got the win, and had a 1-0 lead just over a minute in off the stick of Logan Cooley.

The U.S. wasn’t content to be up just one goal, keeping the pressure on and forcing Canadian goaltender Thomas Milic to make some big saves. With the American in full control of the flow, up to a 9-0 edge in shots, it was their own mistake that gave Canada an opportunity to breathe when they sent the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty.

On that power play Canada showed the U.S. what their top offensive players were capable of, firing six shots on goal in the two minute. Trey Augustine was prepared for his first action of the night, and turned all six aside.

After the kill, Team USA nearly added a second goal as a shot at a wide-open net went off the base of the post. Midway through the opening frame, they got that second goal on a rush up the ice when Kenny Connors got to a rebound.

Facing the possibility of getting blown out in front of a home crowd, Canada finally got a foothold, and as it has for much of this tournament, it was thanks to Connor Bedard. Logan Stankoven won an offensive-zone faceoff, defenceman Ethan Del Mastro moved down the boards and sent the puck across the crease, and Bedard finished the play off with his ninth goal of the tournament.

The goal helped calmed Canada’s nerves and get them into the flow of the action, though it was still the U.S. holding more of the possession. As the teams headed to the intermission, the Americans had to be feeling good about their game, but Canada had that crucial first goal to build upon.

Within the opening minute of the second period, Canada had the tying goal to completely reset the score. It was once again the top line that made it happen, and this time it was Stankoven finishing off the play at the side of the net.

A physical shift from newcomer Owen Beck allowed Canada to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and it nearly ended in another Canadian goal, but Adam Fantilli hit the post. It wasn’t long afterward that Fanitlli made up for the miss, scoring on a perfect cross-crease pass from Zach Dean on a Canadian rush.

Team USA’s Jackson Blake tied the game up, but the play was challenged by Canada’s coaching staff. It was determined that Blake’s move to spin through the crease with the puck on his stick had prevented Milic from making a save, and the goal was taken off the board.

Rather than having the game tied, the Americans were soon down by two goals instead. The top line converted a three-way passing play from Bedard, to Stankoven, for Joshua Roy.

The two teams trade power-play chances in the second half of the middle period, providing big tests for both goaltenders, but challenges they both passed to get the game to the second intermission tied.

Following an extended break to give the well-used ice surface more time to freeze, the game had another quick goal to start a period. To the chagrin of Team USA, this one also went to a challenge, and once more it was deemed that Milic had been interfered with as his pad was pushed over the line.

They followed up that setback with a couple of shots off the posts behind Milic. Again they were proving to be the better team at even strength, but they simply couldn’t get a puck to go (legally) into the net.

Despite the U.S. being all over their opponent, highlighted by a long shift in full possession by defenceman Luke Hughes and another quarterbacked by fellow blue-liner Lane Hutson, Canada’s depth put the game further out of reach midway through the third. A sparsely used fourth line moved the puck low in the zone, and Canadian defenceman Brandt Clarke stepped up to send a perfect shot of the left elbow of the net to make it a 5-2 score.

With about four minutes to play and still down by three, the Americans got a power play with a high-sticking call to Dean, and had to pull Augustine to have a chance. They didn’t even get a chance to set up their man advantage as Joshua Roy took the puck away in the neutral zone and sent it into the open net to seal the 6-2 result.

The home crowd chants “We Want Gold!” as the final seconds tick away, and Canada will have a shot at that versus the Czechs on Thursday night.