Who: United States vs. Canada
What: We’re playing for gold
When: 8:00pm EST
Where: Bell Centre, Montreal
Television: NHL Network/TSN
Well, this is the dream match-up. The United States vs. Canada for a gold medal. It has happened three times before, including 2004, when the United States won their first ever gold medal in this event, and most recently in 2010, when the United States won a crazy 6-5 game in overtime in Saskatoon, in what remains one of the craziest, greatest games in a tournament that specializes in great and crazy games.
On paper, the US probably has the better team, and I think they showed that in their New Year’s Eve victory over Canada. But it’s not going to be that simple to beat such a good team for a second straight time, and to do it in a pressure-cooker atmosphere.
There is no grander stage in all of amateur hockey than playing for gold at the World Juniors. Regardless of how the game turns out, this is going to be something special to watch.
United States, 5-1-0-0, 1st place Group B
W vs. Latvia 6-1
W vs. Slovakia 5-2
W vs. Russia 3-2
W vs. Canada 3-1
W vs. Switzerland 3-2
W vs. Russia 4-3(SO)
Top Players: The top line led by Clayton Keller and Colin White was incredible again for the United States in the semifinals. The offense starts with them. Jeremy Bracco and Jordan Greenway are the secondary scoring threats and could play a big role on the power play in this game. Jack Roslovic also quietly had a very good game against the Russians and may be due for a big goal in this game.
In Goal: The US could look to Joseph Woll if they decide they don’t want to play Tyler Parsons and back-to-back nights, but after his play in the quarterfinals and semifinals, I really think this is Parsons’ tournament at this point. I can’t see switching goalies when a guy is as hot as Parsons has been. If Parsons can play like he has throughout the rest of the tournament, that’s a huge edge for the US.
Canada 5-0-0-1, 2nd place Group B
W vs. Russia 5-3
W vs. Slovakia 5-0
W vs. Latvia 10-2
L vs. United State 3-1
W vs. Czech Republic 5-3
W vs. Sweden 5-2
Top Players: It’s Canada, so everybody is good, although the depth isn’t quite what it sometimes is for the Canadians. At forward, Matt Barzal is a fast, dangerous playmaker and Dylan Strome is their top finisher, especially on the power play. Julien Gauthier is an enigmatic power forward, but has played two great games in the medal round. Mitchell Stephens didn’t play in the first US-Canada game, but returned for the medal round and has been a real sparkplug in their line-up, providing some lower line scoring depth. Most college hockey fans are familiar with what Tyson Jost can do.
On the blue line, it’s all about Thomas Chabot, who played nearly half the game against Sweden. Philippe Myers is still out with the concussion he received from Luke Kunin on New Year’s Eve and that’s a huge blow for Canada because he was probably their number two defenseman prior to that.
In Goal: I speculated that Carter Hart would be the guy in goal for Canada in the medal round after Connor Ingram was shaky against the United States. Ingram’s leash was a bit longer, but he was shaky in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic, and after giving up two quick goals to Sweden in the semifinal, was given the hook. Hart played well as the back-up and has been named the starter for tonight’s game. There’s always the possibility that Hart stands on his head, but overall, this hasn’t been a position of strength for Canada, and with the insane pressure, I think it’s far more likely we see a soft or goal or two out of Hart.
Keys to a US Victory
- Stay out of the GD penalty box
The US was much better in that regard against the Russians than they had been previously in the tournament, which was good, because I doubt they would have won if they gave Russia many more man advantages. Same will apply with Canada. In the first meeting, the US was the better team at 5-on-5 and was lucky that Canada wasn’t sharp on numerous power play attempts. I doubt they’ll be so lucky a second time.
2. Clog up the ice
The US was really able to slow Canada down in their first meeting by playing great disciplined defense to take away passing and shooting lanes in prime scoring areas, and Canada wasn’t able to generate much offense at even strength.
3. Control momentum and emotion
Crowds have not been good in Montreal for this tournament, but I imagine it will be a hot ticket with Canada facing the United States for gold. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the building and the US will need to stay focused and play their game, even if things start to become a bit desperate.