A New Year’s Eve Heartbreaker

Celebrating one of the four goals in a hard fought game
(USA Hockey)

“We had them right where we wanted them. We let it slip at the end, but that’s part of hockey. We have to move forward.” –U.S. forward Jordan Schroeder

World Junior Hockey Championship
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

USA vs Canada

Two teams with perfect records of 3-0.

A bitter rivalry between two North American neighbors.

A game for the ages.

In the most anticlimactic ending possible, the United States lost to Canada 4-5 in what should become a New Year’s Eve staple at the World Junior Championship.

A shootout decided this year’s thrilling game between the rival countries after the U.S. let a 4-2 lead slip in the third period.

Both squads came out flying. The Canadians were thriving off of the home crowd in the sold out Credit Union Centre. The U.S. was out to prove that Americans can hold their own against Canada in the game of hockey.

Canada started the game with how they had started just about every game in the tournament; they scored earlier. Just 2:03 into the first period, Stefan Della Rovere (Washington ’08, Barrie-OHL) drove the net hard looking for a rebound and put one past goalie Jack Campbell (Draft Eligible, USNTDP).

Not soon after, at the 3:04 mark, with Brayden Schenn (Los Angeles ’09, Brandon-WHL) in the box for boarding, Philip McRae (St. Louis ’08, London-OHL) scored on the power play after knocking in a rebound. The first period would end in a tie with momentum favoring the United States.

There was more exchanging of goals with Schroeder taking one in on a shorthanded breakaway and scoring five hole, and Jordan Eberle (Edmonton ’08, Regina-WHL) scoring on a backhander that went past a reaching Campbell.  With 11 seconds left in the period,Tyler Johnson (Free Agent, Spokane-WHL) scored the second shorty of the night for the Americans after getting a rebound off of Jerry D’Amigo‘s (Toronto ’09, RPI-ECACH) shot. After two, it was USA 3 – Canada 2.

Just a minute into the third, Danny Kristo (Montreal ’08, UND-WCHA) recieved a nice stretch pass out of the defensive zone from Captain Derek Stepan (NYR ’08, Wisconsin-WCHA) and scored the U.S.’s first even, and only, even strength goal of the game. After another great chance by D’Amigo that hit the bottom of the crossbar on what looked almost like a goal, the Canadians were ready for the comback. Eberle got a deflection to make close the gap to 4-3, and Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis ’08, Niagra-OHL) made up for the turning the puck over on the Kristo goal by scoring a shorty. The game was headed to overtime tied at 4.

Schroeder, Ryan Bourque (NYR ’09, Quebec-QMJHL), John Carlson (Washington ’08, Hershey-AHL), and David Warsofsky (St. Louis ’08, Boston University-HEA) started the extra session for the U.S. It was a frantic five minutes that ended without either team scoring. In the dying seconds, both Campbell and Jake Allen (St. Louis ’08, Montreal-QMJHL) came up with huge saves for their respective teams.

The United States won the coin toss and chose to defer. Eberle, Nazem Kadri (Toronto ’09, London-OHL), and Brandon Kozun (Los Angeles ’09, Calgary-WHL) all scored for the Canadians, while both Kristo and Morin scored for the Americans. The shot that decided whether there would be another round of shooters was in the hands of Jordan Schroeder. He tried to use the same move that he had on his goal, but it proved to be the only save of the shootout for either goalie.

The shootout did not do either of the teams justice. A few other notes:

—Despite the loss, the U.S. outplayed Canada for almost the entire game. The speed of the American skaters was the prime factor for so many breakaways and shorthanded goals. The Canadians seemed a little passive in their play. I don’t know if it was them having a mindset that they could get an easy win, having the home crowd, or something else, but they had a lot of not-so-pretty moments. They were very prone to giveaways. Bad passes gave the U.S. plenty of golden opportunities, some of which they cashed in on.

—Neither team showed too much discipline. The U.S. took six minors to Cananda’s five. Della Rovere seemed a little chippier than in Canada’s last game against Slovakia. He had a blantant knee on knee with Brian Lashoff (Detroit FA Signee ’08, Kingston-OHL) and was lucky that neither of them were skating at full speed because both would have probably been done for the game. The Canadians also took a penalty that gave Chris Kreider (NYR ’09, Boston College-HEA) a penalty shot that he missed wide.

—Jake Allen really helped keep Canada in the game. He was sharp, but there was nothing he could do on two shorthanded breakaways and Kristo’s semi-break. His team really left him out to dry a few times. I’ve never seen as many breakaways or odd man rushes as I did last night.

—It was all about special teams for the States.  In particular, the penalty kill was superb. They killed off all six minors AND scored two shorthanded goals against a powerful Canadian power play.

—I think one thing that has plagued the U.S. team is there failure to finish their opportunities. Coach Dean Blais had stated, during an in-game interview of a previous game, that that was something they’d like to work on. Kyle Palmieri (Anaheim ’09, UND-WCHA) had a golden chance on a breakaway shortly after Kreider missed his penalty shot. He hit the post above a sprawling Jake Allen, and McRae had another chance to bury the puck but Allen was there for the save. Just watching the highlights, you can see how quite a few chances weren’t converted.

—Something positive that the Americans can take away: they contained the possible first overall draft pick, Taylor Hall (Draft Eligible, Windsor-OHL). Coach Dean Blais started the game by matching Lashoff with Hall. It worked well, but he switched the matchup to have Hall’s Windsor teammate Cam Fowler (Draft Eligible, Windsor-OHL) against the dangerous forward. Fowler knows Hall and kept him quiet. For the most part, I didn’t notice Hall except for the times he coughed up the puck or had it poked away. However, in the start of the third period, Hall came out flying. He had a fantastic opportunity but missed the net. Then, he was able to get the puck he shot back, got Campbell to commit to the right side, skated around to an open net (Campbell-wise. There were too many bodies to count scrambling in front), and missed it again. He was on for three goals, mainly because two were scored against the Canadian power play.

The U.S. deserved to win this game. They battled harder and nearly came out on top.

But they didn’t earn it. Canada did.

The worst thing was seeing heads hanging at the end of the game after our boys put on a fantastic display of what they can do. I could see Jack Campbell blaming himself while he had to stand on the blueline and listen to the Canadian national anthem. His eyes spoke for themselves. As a lacrosse and ex-soccer goalie myself, it definitely killed me to see him like that. Derek Stepan did an interview right after hand shakes were done. He was composed but obviously upset. It was something that Elliotte Friedman found classy.

There’s still a chance that these two will meet up again in the Gold Medal round. If they do, we’ll see an American team playing with a chip on their shoulders and looking to redeem themselves and a Canadian team that looks to win their sixth straight gold medal.

If it happens, it’ll be a hell of a game that hopefully ends with a win for the Red, White, and Blue.

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2 Comments

Filed under Hockey, Sports

2 responses to “A New Year’s Eve Heartbreaker

  1. I think you are being too kind to Canada. Their play was beyond sloppy. I feel for the Americans. You’re right, their failure to capitalize on their opportunities cost them the game. I think back to the post they hit in the 3rd period and the penalty shot that went wide as prime examples.

    As bad as I feel for the Americans – they’ve really reshaped their development program – I think they can be proud that not only did they deserve to win, they completely outplayed Canada in Canada’s home building. They made a huge statement last night, just didn’t finish the job. I hope they can move into the Semi-Finals.

    • Punch In The Face

      I concentrating a little more on the Americans play rather than the Canadians, so maybe that’s why it’s so passive towards explaining just how sloppy Canada was. I think the biggest thing that killed them was turnovers. I’m not entirely familiar with his play, but Pietrangelo didn’t look good to me, despite his shorthanded goal. I though he was the reason for two of our goals. He got beat on Johnson’s shorty and turned it over on Kristo’s. The amount of turnovers probably surprised me most about Canada.

      I can’t even imagine how bad they feel. They’ll get over it, but I think that they were blaming themselves after. I haven’t been around hockey long enough to know what kind of state of our development programs were in before, but if we can hang with Canada and outplay them, it’s pretty damn good now. Let’s hope for a Gold Medal rematch.

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