The USA junior hockey team beat arch rivals Canada 5-1 on Jan. 3 in their semifinal match-up at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Ufa, Russia.
The Americans were led by the stellar goaltending of John Bishop while John Gaudreau and team captain Jake McCabe scored two goals apiece with Jim Vesey adding a single. The U.S. will now take on Sweden in the gold-medal game on Saturday, Jan. 5. Sweden edged the host nation Russia 3-2 in a penalty shootout.
McCabe got the Americans off to a fast start with two goals in the first period and Gaudreau extended the lead to 3-0 early in the second. The U.S. was dominating the game and made it 4-0 just after the midway point of the game when Vesey beat Canadian goaltender Malcolm Subban. Canada, with nothing to lose, then yanked Subban from the net and replaced him with Jordan Binnington.
The goaltending change helped jumpstart the Canadian players as Binnington stopped everything the Americans threw at him. Canada then got back into the game when Ty Rattie scored a short-handed goal at the 4:03 mark of the third period. They grew in confidence and started to take the game to the U.S., but Bishop stood his ground and pulled off some enormous saves to keep his team in the lead.
Any hopes of a Canadian comeback were dashed when Gaudreau added his second of the night and seventh of the tournament when he ripped a shot over Binnington’s shoulder with just 4:19 remaining in the game. Gibson, stopped 33 shots to earn the win and after the game he credited his defense for making his job easier.
The U.S. had lost to Canada 2-1 earlier in the tournament and were also beaten by Russia by the same score. They finished the round-robin stage of the event with a 2-2 record after recording wins over Slovakia and Germany.
The Americans then handed the Czech Republic a 7-0 beating in their quarterfinal match-up on Jan. 2, which enabled them to advance to the semifinals against Canada. The Canadians topped the group after round-robin play by going 4-0, which earned them a bye into the semifinals.
They will now face off against Russia for the bronze medal also on Jan. 5. It will be the Americans first gold-medal game at the championships since 2010 and they will be attempting to win their third gold in the history of the event.
The Americans were better than Canada in all aspects of the semifinal contest and that was reflected in the score. The Canadians were flat and listless while the U.S. players seemed to be full of energy, creativity, speed, and confidence.
Gaudreau’s seven goals have all come in the last three games and he now has a good chance to tie the U.S. record of eight in one tournament set by Jeremy Roenick. He also has a good chance at being named the MVP of the tournament, as does goaltender Bishop, who has two shutouts in the event and has allowed just eight goals against in six games while the team has scored 31 for.