The United States spoiled Team Canada’s New Year’s Eve party by beating the host nation 3-1 at the World Junior Hockey Championship in a matchup that decided first place in Group B.
Leafs prospect Joseph Woll (Boston College, third round, 62nd overall in 2016). got the surprise start between the pipes for the Americans and stopped 25 shots to secure the win.
The game was ultimately decided by special teams. Team USA received two power play goals – in as many chances – from Colin White and Jordan Greenway by the time the game was just over six minutes old. Conversely, Canada failed to convert on a stretch of 47 seconds during the opening period in which it had a 5-on-3 power play.
The Canadians were awarded an additional two-man advantage in the middle frame, beginning with a controversial major and ejection to U.S. captain Luke Kunin that knocked defenceman Philippe Myers out of the game. Then after Charlie McAvoy was called for tripping to put his team down two men, Myers’s defence partner Thomas Chabot pounced on a rebound to bringing Canada to within a goal and send Air Canada Centre into a frenzy.
However, any momentum for the home side was halted when Jeremy Bracco (Kitchener, OHL, second round, 61st overall in 2015), netted a rebound at the side of the goal past Canadian netminder Connor Ingram to restore the two-goal lead.
Greenway, a Minnesota Wild propsect, finished the game with a goal and two assists, and Arizona Coyotes first-rounder in 2016 Clayton Keller had a pair of assists.
Woll was flawless in the third period, making nine saves over the final 20 minutes.
“He was great, he was kicking all night,” Bracco said of his netminder. “The first 5-on-3, he really stood in there. They got a lucky bounce on that second one, but he was unbelievable on night for us, and one of the major keys for the victory.”
In what was the Americans’ biggest win of the tournament so far, Woll took pride in his team’s defeat of its North American rivals, but also marveled at the experience of playing in the rink he hopes to one day call home.
“It’s definitely a really special experience playing here at the ACC, especially with the fans and everything, even though they’re Canadian fans.” Woll said. “It shows you how passionate they are about the game, and definitely something to look forward to, down the road. That’s probably the best atmosphere I’ve played in, even though they weren’t rooting for us.”
In Monday’s quarter-final action, the United States faces Switzerland at Air Canada Centre (5:30pm ET), and Canada duels against the Czech Republic at Montreal’s Bell Centre (8pm ET).
Bracco cautiously tempered the enthusiasm for his team’s perfect 4-0-0 record in the preliminary round.
“Whether we had swept it, or lost a couple, I think for us it’s about staying even keel, and sticking to what we know, and what works for us. We’re feeling really good about ourselves, but nothing’s been accomplished yet,” he said.
In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.