Canada falls to U.S. in heartbreaking gold medal shootout loss
Canada forward Nicolas Roy reacts after losing to the United States in gold medal game hockey action at the IIHF World Junior Championship, Thursday, January 5, 2017 in Montreal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
We had been expecting something special. Memorable. One of those “where-were-you?” type moments that comes along only so often.
We were not disappointed.
Well, that might depend on where you were born.
The last time Canada and the United States had met at the World Junior Hockey Championship, American-born defenceman John Carlson had become a national hero when he scored his second goal of the game in 6-5 overtime win.
“I remember rushing home from practice to watch that game," said Team USA captain Luke Kunin. "My coach came over and it was me, him and my dad in our basement watching the golden goal."
Two months later, Sidney Crosby would score an even bigger “golden goal” when he went five-hole in overtime on goalie Ryan Miller at the 2010 Olympics. As Canada forward Mathew Barzal said, “That’s probably the biggest Canada-US moment that I know.”
And now this:
Following three periods of back-and-forth hockey and an overtime that might have been the single most entertaining 20 minutes of scoreless hockey imaginable, the Americans won 5-4 in an shootout. Troy Terry, who a day earlier had gone 3-for-3 in the shootout against Russia, scored the only shootout goal.
Yes, this lived up to the billing and the hype — and then some. After weeks of playing in front of half-empty arenas in Toronto and Montreal, a sold-out crowd finally showed up when it mattered. Unfortunately for Canada so did the U.S.
Still, this one was a game for the ages.
It was a wild game of momentum swings and back-and-forth line rushes, where the action never seemed to stall and where no two-goal lead was safe. Canada scored twice in the first period. The U.S. scored twice in the second. And both teams combined for four goals in the third, leading to a finish that deserved better than a breakaway skills competition.
It was the fourth time that the U.S. and Canada had played in the final and the third time that the U.S. had come out on top. And yet, the Canadians have no reason to hang its heads.
The U.S. had defeated Canada 3-1 in the final game of the preliminary round, in part because Canada had got in penalty trouble and couldn’t figure a way to find the net around the American shot-blockers. It had been Canada’s worst game of the tournament and the lessons of that loss were on full display in the re-match.
Against Sweden in the semi-final, Canada had lured its skilled opponent into playing a physical game. But against the U.S., who entered the game as the only undefeated team in the tournament, Canada relied on speed.
Canada pushed the pace early, seemingly as though it had been saving an extra gear especially for this game. On the second shift of the first period, Mitchell Stephens rang a shot off the post. Shortly after, Mathew Barzal weaved the puck through the offensive zone and found a pinching Thomas Chabot for a backdoor pass, giving Canada a 1-0 lead.
Four minutes later, a U.S. defenceman used his glove to swat a puck out of the defensive zone. Instead, it landed on the stick of defenceman Jeremy Lauzon, who extended Canada’s lead to 2-0.
For a while, the Americans had no answer for Canada’s speed and puck pursuit. But that didn’t mean they went quietly. Of course, they had Canada to thank for that.
The Canadians were playing their best when they were going north-south and driving to the net. They got themselves in troubles during the tournament when they tried to be too fancy and played on the perimeter. There were signs of the latter in the second period, plus a couple of mental mistakes.
A bad line change allowed U.S. defenceman Charlie McAvoy to walk in alone and pick the top corner to cut Canada’s lead in half. After taking a too-many-men penalty, the U.S. tied the game on a pinball-like shot on the power play that bounced in off forward Kiefer Bellows.
With the score tied 2-2, the stage was set heading into a wild third period that combined the first two periods into one.
Goals from Nicolas Roy and Mathieu Joseph two minutes and 13 seconds apart gave Canada a 2-0 lead early in the third period. But 39 seconds later, Bellows and Colin White answered back for the U.S. just as quickly, scoring twice in two minutes and 23 seconds.
The Canadians had chances to win the game several times over. With the U.S. in the penalty box for shooting the puck over the glass, Barzal put a puck on a tee for Pierre-Luc Dubois, who somehow whiffed on the pass. Chances are even if he did score, the U.S. would have come back and tied things up again.
It was that kind of game. Hopefully, we don’t have to wait another seven years for the next one.