In a finish that probably very few hockey minds predicted, the USA team defeated Canada–the favorites to win it all in many hearts–by a 5-1 score at the World Junior Championship, setting the medal round in motion. No matter what happens in America’s next game, they will win a medal. Whether the medal is gold or silver remains to be determined.
Canada had a day off before coming into this semifinal matchup, but the US was fresh off their big 7-0 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals one day previously. In the end, that may have helped contribute to Canada’s loss. They seemed sluggish and rusty, not at all like the powerhouses they usually are in this tournament, and the Americans took advantage of that.
Unlike the penalty festival that was America’s quarterfinal showdown with the Czech Republic, there were absolutely no trips to the box at all in the first period. That didn’t matter because team captain Jake McCabe was able to put away two different goals in the first period. A two-goal lead is notoriously hard to hold in my experience, so the Americans decided to build on it with goals from Johnny Gaudreau and Jim Vesey in the first few minutes of the second period. Gaudreau has gotten hot at the right time. He didn’t score at all in the tournament’s first few games, but now he has seven goals and two assists to his name.
Vesey’s goal–his first of the tournament–signaled the end of the day’s work for Malcolm Subban, thus ending his streak of playing every single minute for the Canadians. Jordan Binnington was tested right away, but to his credit, he did keep the door shut for quite some time.
John Gibson just kept the door even more shut. Aside from a strange but legitimate goal from Ty Rattie that required review before it was deemed kosher, he turned away every shot he saw and straight-up robbed guys on some of the saves.
In the end, Gaudreau struck again to make it a 5-1 final. McCabe came up just short of a hat trick, but he was named best player of the game.
After this game, Russia and Sweden met for a later-morning (Eastern time, anyway) showdown to determine who will play in the gold-medal game with Team USA. Sweden eked out a 3-2 win, so there is now no way that the host country can possibly win gold or silver. They can, however, take the bronze if they beat Canada.
The bronze medal game will be at 4 a.m. Eastern on Jan. 5 and the gold medal game will start at 8 a.m. Eastern that same day.
Check out highlights from the American win here: