World juniors: Canada ousts USA in electric semifinal to reach gold medal game

Canada and the United States went toe-to-toe in yet another world junior classic between the two powerhouse sides on Wednesday.

Canada vs. USA international hockey games never disappoint, especially at the world juniors. (CP photos)
Canada vs. USA international hockey games never disappoint, especially at the world juniors. (CP photos)

In what turned out to be a typical Canada versus USA classic at the world juniors, the Canadians came from behind to secure a spot in the gold medal game with a 6-2 win.

Canada, who scored six unanswered goals against the Americans after falling behind 2-0 early on, will now play Czechia for gold on Thursday, while the USA will face Sweden for bronze.

Third overall pick of the Arizona Coyotes Logan Cooley opened the scoring just over a minute into the game for Team USA. A Ryan Ufko point shot, which was blocked in the slot, ended up on Cooley’s stick, who turned and beat Thomas Milic from the slot.

With 9:30 remaining in the first, Michigan Wolverines forward Gavin Brindley carried the puck into the Canadian zone before dropping a pass to Charlie Stramel, who hit Kenny Connors at the side of the net to put the USA up by two.

After falling behind 2-0, Canada finally hit the scoresheet past the midway point of the first period. Off a face-off win by Joshua Roy, Ethan del Mastro walked the puck down the left-wing board and ripped a perfect cross-crease pass to Connor Bedard, who continued his historic tournament — dropping to one knee to gain leverage before burying Canada’s first of the game.

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Needing offence from someone not named Bedard, Logan Stankoven answered for Canada less than a minute into the second period to tie the game 2-2. Stankoven, Canada’s second-leading scorer in the tournament, caused the crowd in Halifax to erupt when he banged home a rebound off a Brandt Clarke shot. The goal looked like a set-play repeat of Bedard’s first-period marker.

Canada continued to pour on the offence from there, getting second-period goals from Adam Fantilli and Joshua Roy, who finished through traffic in tight for his third point of the game to make it 4-2 Canada.

Entering the third period up by two, Canada continued to apply pressure. Midway through the frame, Brandt Clarke found a puck in the slot during a chaotic exchange and went top corner over Augustine’s glove to give Canada a commanding three-goal cushion.

The U.S. did have a pair of goals reversed on coach's challenges from Canada in this one, with both markers being overturned for goaltender interference.

Trying to claw back into the game, USA pulled Augustine for the extra attacker, but Joshua Roy found the back of the empty cage for his second goal and fourth point of the night to secure the 6-2 victory for Canada.

Earlier, Czechia advanced to the gold medal game on the backs of a pair of first-round NHL picks, getting a late equalizer from David Jiricek (Columbus) before Jiri Kulich (Buffalo) buried the overtime winner late in the extra frame. Czechia has played spectacular defence in the tournament, and received excellent goaltending from Tomas Suchanek. Facing Canada in the opening game of the tournament, Czechia handed the Canadians their only loss, a 5-2 decision.

In a tournament where Canada has relied heavily upon Connor Bedard to drive offence, the balanced scoring exhibited in Canada’s semi-final win bodes well for their gold medal hopes. Facing the Americans, Bedard, along with Roy, Stankoven, Clarke, and Fantilli all scored and recorded multi-point games. Absent from the scoresheet for Canada were NHLers Dylan Guenther and Shane Wright, showcasing the team’s depth.

And we can't overlook Canadian goaltender Thomas Milic, who was absolutely outstanding in this one — making 43 stops on the night while closing the floodgates with some massive saves as the Canadians stumbled through the early parts of the game.

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Canada and Czechia will face off at 7:30pm EST (4:30pm PST) on Thursday, while Sweden and USA will play for bronze at 3:30pm EST (12:30pm PST) at Scotiabank Arena in Halifax.

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