The United States put on a shot- and pass-blocking clinic in defeating Canada, 3-1, this afternoon at the Air Canada Centre to claim first place in Group B.
The result marked the first New Year’s Eve victory for the U.S. over Canada in 18 years, a streak of seven games (six losses, one tie).
The U.S. was full measure for the win, playing with greater confidence and surety, capitalizing on early power plays, weathering the storm when Canada turned on the heat, and getting better goaltending at crucial moments from Joseph Woll than that provided Canada by Connor Ingram.
“The penalty killing was the story of the game for us,” U.S. coach Bob Motzko said. “We weren’t so good the last two games, and we made some changes, and tonight the killers were great.”
In fact, Canada had nearly 12 minutes of power-play time in the game but managed only one goal and not many more scoring chances. The Americans scored on their first two man advantages.
“Obviously, it’s great to win this game, but now we’re focused on the quarter-finals,” said Clayton Keller. “Our best hockey is yet to come. Beating Canada and Russia is huge, but the real hockey starts Monday.”
“They’re a great team,” said Jordan Greenway, who had a goal and an assist in the first period, “but we kept our game simple and did what we had to do. “Our forwards, our defencemen, everyone was blocking shots when they had to. We have great chemistry playing defence as a team.”
The Americans silenced the crowd early with two quick power-play goals. The first came at 4:31 on a play around the goal. Greenway feathered a nice pass from the corner to Colin White, and his quick shot beat Ingram to the far side.
Just a minute and a half later, after a lazy kneeing penalty by Philippe Myers, Greenway walked out form the corner and tucked the puck between Ingram’s pads, a soft goal, to be sure, but a great burst of speed from the American forward.
Later in the period Canada had a great chance to get on the board thanks to a two-man advantage for 47 seconds, but it got nary a decent shot off during the power play.
Canada had another opportunity early in the second when U.S. captain Luke Kunin took a five-minute major (and game misconduct) for interference. The Canadian on the other end of the hard hit, Myers, left the game and didn’t return. Coach Dominique Ducharme confirmed after that Myers has a concussion and might miss the rest of the tournament.
This was followed by another minor soon after, giving the home side a two-man advantage for 1:48. This time they connected. Thomas Chabot got a rebound to the back side of the net and drilled it in before Woll could get over.
This started several minutes of intense pressure, but Canada couldn’t get the equalizer and the visitors silenced the crowd with a goal off a juicy rebound from Ingram. This time it was Jeremy Bracco who found the back of the net to make it a 3-1 game.
Canada tried valiantly in the third but was stymied at every moment. “We wanted to keep them to the perimeter,” Greenway added. “Nothing complex; just get it out.”
And now, both teams head to the quarter-finals against teams to be determined later tonight. For the U.S., today’s win was another building block towards a medal, and for Canada it was a lesson learned.