And on Matchday 12, the hockey gods gave us the perfect end to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship – Canada v United States with a gold medal on the line.
“This day has been marked in all of our calendars since we arrived,” said Alex Newhook of Newfoundland after his goal at 59 seconds was the game winner against Russia in the semi-final. “To finally be here and see that the work we have done pays off at this point. It’s exciting.”
Canada has come through the competition up to this point: the team has allowed just four goals – all on the power play – on 124 shots in its first six games. He had three shutouts with the last two in the quarter-finals (3-0 against the Czechs) and in the semi-finals (5-0 against Russia). Netminder Devon Levi is on fire (reminder: the Quebec goalie was not even invited to summer camp) with a tiny 0.53 goals against average and a near perfect save percentage of 0.975.
Levi is also the second Canadian goaltender in tournament history to record three shutouts, joining Justin Pogge who did so in 2006. But he has other things on his mind.
“I’m not playing for a shutout record. I’m playing for a gold medal,” Levi said, after stopping all 28 shots for Russia. “It might be something to watch after the tournament, but the job is not done yet.”
The team’s offense also shot all cylinders. As well as allowing the fewest goals in the tournament, they also scored the most (41), with each skater scoring at least one point. But as head coach André Tourigny said Tuesday afternoon, quoting Phil Jackson: “It doesn’t mean anything without the ring.”
And it won’t be easy. While hockey experts call this group one of Canada’s best in junior world history, the boys up north now face their toughest test of the entire tournament with their neighbors to the south.
Since losing the cover to Russia on Christmas Day 5-3, the Americans have gone on a tear winning five in a row and allowing just five goals. Netminder’s Dustin Wolf (one) and Spencer Knight had back-to-back back-to-back shutouts with Team USA’s shutout streak ending in the quarterfinals against Slovakia in a junior world record of 218: 53. Knight and Dustin Wolf had also combined for 245:07 of white time with a goalie in the net.
The United States also brings a powerful offense that scored 34 goals (second best against Canada) and tournament best 42.86% efficiency on the power play. Head coach Nate Leaman loves to ride his first three lines, led by the line of Trevor Zegras, Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte. Zegras (six goals, 10 assists), by the way, made his way into USA Hockey’s junior world record books and entered the game tied with Canadian Dylan Cozens (eight goals, eight assists) – doing the same for Hockey Canada – for the scoring title.
There is a lot of history throughout the stories in this game.
The top two goaltenders, Levi and Knight, who not only meet tonight, will do so at Hockey East this season and are both Panthers prospects. Newhook and American Matthew Boldy are roommates at Boston College and Dylan Holloway and Cole Caufield of Wisconsin will be at different ends of the ice. The 2021 edition is also the fifth time the two countries will face each other in the ultimate match with the United States winning three of the last four – out of four.
“I remember the two times I was watching with my dad and we were pretty excited,” Alex Turcotte said Monday night when asked if he was watching 2010 and 2017. “Those are legendary moments from this tournament. American hockey and it was great to watch. and to be able to make the Canada-U.S. gold medal game in that tournament. It’s a dream come true and we’ll make the most of it. “
A gold medal game is nothing new for Canada; in fact, this year’s squad has six returnees – and Tourigny – aiming for back-to-back gold medals.
“The last few seconds are counting down and the clock has struck and that last relief to have won the gold medal,” recalls Dawson Mercer of last year’s gold medal against Russia. “The celebration with the guys is the best part. We all fought together and when you sing your anthem on the blue line, have the gold medal around your neck, those are all memories that will never go away. So I’m really looking forward … to making this happen again. “
Both teams have been through a lot: bubbles and quarantines. Zoom calls, daily COVID-19 tests and boring meals. Both teams talk about the closeness of their team. Both teams have their eyes on the prize.
It all comes down to this: Canada versus the United States. Only one can be golden at the end. Who will it be? We’ll find out soon, so pitter-patter, let’s go.
Sporting News has all the action as Canada and the United States seek gold.
(All Eastern hours)
Canada vs. USA score, 2021 World Juniors gold game highlights
11:28 p.m. – Canada got some offensive time, but Knight was there and the Americans blocked a few, including a big one from Bobby Brink on a point shot from Kaiden Guhle.
11:21 p.m. – Canada and the United States exchange shots which are easily stopped.
11:19 p.m. – Third period in progress. In 2020, Canada won the gold medal after trailing 3-1 in the third. Will they repeat a comeback in 2021?
Second period: USA 2, Canada 0
11:01 p.m. – The period is coming to an end. Canada with 19 shots now through two but still scoreless.
10:58 p.m. – Spencer Knight is on point tonight and the Canadiens get frustrated as Connor Zary slams the stick off the bench.
22:52 – Canada on the right wing but Spencer Knight once again stops. Americans weather the storm as Canada gains momentum.
10:50 p.m. – Canada are trying to build something now 5-5 as they buzz around the net but can’t score.
10:47 p.m. – Shorthanded Bowen Byram intervenes and sounds the back of the pipe.
10:46 p.m. – Kaliyev with two consecutive shots but Levi makes the big saves.
10:44 p.m. – The United States tries to break through 2 on 1 but Jakob Pelletier hooks the Kaliyev to slow him down and is called for a collision. First power play for the Americans and they have the best of the tournament.
10:40 p.m. – The Canadians on their heels and have only one shot in the period.
10:31 p.m. – GOAL. Seconds later, Levi loses track of the puck as she hits the back bar as it passes behind the net and comes out to Trevor Zegras who enters it. The USA leads 2-0.
10:31 p.m. – Second period.
First period: USA 1, Canada 0
10:13 p.m. – The first period comes to an end.
10:12 p.m. – Peyton Krebs with a solid shot in the neutral zone.
10:08 p.m. – Canada is now 0 to 1 on the power play.
10:06 p.m. – Big pad stop by Knight.
10:06 p.m. – Bobby Brink takes an offensive zone penalty. Canada will have a chance to equalize, but the power play has not been great. Canada has only scored one power-play goal in the last three games.
10:01 p.m. – The first line of Canada is pinned on its side with the first American line.
9:58 p.m. – The United States’ goal is the first evenly matched goal Canada has allowed throughout the tournament. It is also the first time that the Canadiens have fallen behind in the tournament.
9:57 p.m. – GOAL. On a long pressure of sustained offensive zone, it is Alex Turcott with an excellent redirection on the shot from the point of Drew Helleson. The USA leads 1-0.
9:53 p.m. – The Americans now have some zonal pressure. Ends with a high shot from Cam York hooked by Levi’s glove.
9:52 p.m. – Canada’s backchecking has been fantastic throughout the tournament and continues tonight;
9:50 p.m. – Good defense of the United States as Dylan Cozens flies on the left wing. Then on a turn-over, another good defensive play from the Americans in the high lunge. The shots at the moment are 5-2 in favor of Canada.
9:50 p.m. – Pad stop by Spencer Knight.
9:47 p.m. – Team Canada very different right now because they don’t have a lot of penetration in the middle. USA head coach Nate Leaman likes to keep shots on the perimeter and so far the majority have been away.
9:42 p.m. – USA with a little pressure but Sanderson with a turnover to end it.
9:41 p.m. – Canada is buzzing around the US net but nothing goes – even when Spencer Knight has lost his stick.
9:40 p.m. – Around 1:30 am and the teams exchanged wide shots.
9:38 p.m. – “Alright boys, that’s it. Enjoy it.” Game on.
Before the match
9:00 p.m. – Trevor Zegras on NHL Network: “Honestly, I don’t think this goalie has been tested 5v5 yet.” Then added: honestly I don’t think they’ve been tested with a real team yet and I think we’re sort of going all cylinders right now. “
7:48 p.m. – The captain sends a message to his boys.
7:34 p.m. – K’Andre Miller from the United States shouting at his team.
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