CAMROSE, AB – It might be the easiest loss to take for Canada East.
Craig Smith and Danny Kristo scored two goals apiece as the United States topped the Canadians 5-3 on Wednesday night at the 2008 World Junior A Challenge.
Despite the loss, Canada East still finished atop Group B and will not play again until Saturday’s semifinals. The American win meant all three teams in the group finished with 1-1 records, but Canada East had a superior goal ratio (nine for, eight against) and was placed above Germany (8-8) and the U.S. (7-8).
Marty O’Grady scored twice and Brandon Pirri added one for the Canadians, who will face the winner of Thursday’s quarter-final between Russia and the United States (4 p.m. MST).
Germany and Belarus will meet on the other quarter (8 p.m. MST), with the winner facing Canada West in Saturday’s other semi.
The Canadians hit the board first in the opening frame, with O’Grady finishing off a feed from Nick D’Agostino on the man advantage, but Smith replied for the Americans on a powerplay of their own, snapping a shot past Canadian netminder Shawn Sirman with just 12 seconds left in the frame.
The offence was front and centre early in the second period as the teams combined for three goals in the opening 3:58.
Kristo started the goal parade 2:32 after the period’s opening face-off, but O’Grady replied exactly one minute later to draw the Canadians even, followed by Kristo’s second 26 seconds later, finishing off a three-goal burst before many of the 1,704 fans in attendance at the Edgeworth Centre could get back to their seats.
Mike Cichy made it 4-2 just past the midway point of the period, which spelled the end of the night for Sirman, who was replaced by Andrew Hare. The Burlington, ON native kept his team in the game, turning aside 19 of the 20 shots he faced over the final 30 minutes.
The United States held a sizable 44-24 advantage in shots on goal.
Pirri and Smith traded goals in the third period as Canada East kept the Americans just close enough to snatch top spot in its group for the second time in three years – the U.S. knocked off Canada East 3-2 in Nelson, BC last year to win the group.
O’Grady and Smith earned Player of the Game honours for their respective teams.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)