Gold medal game preview
Gold medal game preview
Familiar foes to battle for gold in Sochi
USA vs. Canada - 20:00 Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi, Russia
United States 4-1 (exhibition), 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship
United States 2-1 (semi-final), 2012 IIHF U18 World Championship
At the future home of the Olympic Games on the shores of the Black Sea, two North American teams will face off for the 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship gold medal.
On one end, the United States, U18 perennial champions who have won a total of seven out of the 14 tournaments that have taken place since the Championship’s inception in 1999. Backed by USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, which has supplied all but one player for the 2013 tournament, the US team holds a slight advantage going into the game against Canada, icing a group of players that have been playing with each other in the NTDP for a year or more.
But it hasn’t been easy for the Americans in Sochi as in past years. The team came into the playoffs as the third seed from Group A following losses to Russia and Finland. Facing elimination in the third period of the semi-final game against hosts Russia, the team came back twice from one-goal deficits, including scoring with just over two minutes left to tie the game. Tyler Kelleher and JT Compher scored in the shootout and goaltender Thatcher Demko stopped two Russian shooters to win the game.
Standing in the way of a fifth straight championship for the Americans is Canada, a team that unlike the U.S. is not always able to send its best players to the tournament, with the Canadian Hockey League playoffs going on at the same time as the U18s.
But you wouldn’t know it this year. Backed by the play of emerging stars like Connor McDavid, Morgan Klimchuk, Sam Reinhart, and Josh Morrissey, and strong goaltending from Philippe Desrosiers, Canada has looked like the team to beat at this year’s tournament. Recovering quickly from a 4-1 exhibition game loss to the States, Canada went undefeated through the preliminary round and roared into the playoffs with a 6-0 blanking of Sweden in then another 6-0 score over the Czech Republic in the quarter-final.
The Canadian offensive engine has been McDavid, who with eight goals and six assists in six games is a near-lock to take the tournament scoring title with 14 points. He is likely to draw the biggest attention from the U.S. defenders, who aside from allowing him a goal in the second period did a good job shutting out Russian captain Valeri Nichushkin in the semi-final game.
Canada last won U18 gold back in 2008. The last time these two teams met in a U18 gold medal game was in 2005 in the Czech Republic. With a squad of future NHLers like Phil Kessel, Jack Johnson, and Erik Johnson, Team USA won that game 5-1.
“It’s always a great game against Canada,” said U.S. forward Anthony Louis. “They come out hard and we come out hard, we play a similar game and both teams fight hard. I expect a close game and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s one of the best games of the tournament.”
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