Canada will have a chance at repeating as gold medalists at the World Championship for the first time in more than a decade, and they’re heading to the gold medal game following a thrilling 4-3 victory over the rival United States.
In what has become a staple of international competition between the men’s national teams on the world stage, the Canadian and American squads turned in a one-goal contest that left one club heartbroken. And this time around, in the semi-final of the World Championship, it was the U.S. squad that left the ice with a bit of heartbreak. However, the American side, which boasted far fewer big-name NHL stars, should be proud of an effort that nearly had their Canadian heading to Sunday’s bronze medal game.
In the first frame, Canada and the U.S. traded chances back and forth, but the only goals in the opening period came from Canadians Brendan Gallagher and Brad Marchand. The 2-0 lead after 20 minutes may have made it appear as though Canada could stomp out any hopes the American club had, but the young team — led in scoring by top prospect Auston Matthews, Dylan Larkin and Frank Vatrano — answered back in the second.
Over the course an eight and a half minute span to open the second period, the Americans struck three times. First, it was Matthews, likely to be the top pick in the upcoming draft, who put on past Canadian goaltender Cam Talbot. Defenseman David Warsofsky buried the game-tying goal less than four minutes later. And less than five minutes after USA levelled the score, Tyler Motte scored a go-ahead goal to give the American team their first lead of the game.
However, before the second period was out, Canada would knot the game at three when Vatrano took a tripping minor. Derick Brassard, coming off of a career-year with the New York Rangers, was able to locate a loose puck on the power play and made no mistake, burying it past U.S. goaltender Keith Kinkaid for the tying goal. The second period ended without either time pulling ahead, but it took less than two minutes for that to change in the third frame.
Only 1:34 into the third period, Ryan Ellis crossed into the USA zone, wound up and let go a blistering slap shot that handcuffed Kinkaid. Ellis’ shot, which is one of the greatest tools in his arsenal, would stand as the game-winning goal as Talbot turned aside all 11 shots he faced in the final frame to secure the 4-3 victory for Canada.
The Canadians will now square off against the Finns in the gold medal game. Finland got to the final after knocking off Russia, the host team, in a thrilling semi-final contest, and the Finns may actually be the favorite heading into the contest. During the round-robin, Finland thumped Canada 4-0, scoring four times on 19 shots.
Should Canada down Finland, it will be the first time since 2003 and 2004 that the nation has won back-to-back golds at the World Championship. For the most part, the tournament has been boom or bust for the Canadians over the past two decades. Since 1996, Canada has won five golds, four silvers and no bronze. Over that span, though, Canada has finished outside the top four 11 times.
As for the Americans, Russia awaits them in the bronze medal game. The teams were in different groups during the playoff round of the tournament and have yet to face each other. However, heading into the semi-final, Russia had beaten nearly every opponent handily with their narrowest margin of victory being a two-goal win over Kazakhstan. Russia, like Canada, boasts a bevy of NHL talent and star players that could give the American defense fits.