Captain Jake McCabe scored twice in the first period to lead the United States to a 5-1 win over Canada. The win takes the Americans to the gold-medal game for the first time since 2010.
John Gibson was excellent in goal for the U.S., stopping 33 of 34 shots. McCabe added an assist for a three-point game, and John Gaudreau also had two goals and an assist for the winners.
"The defence played really well, which makes my job a lot easier," Gibson said. "If it wasn't for them, we probably wouldn't be here."
The loss means a trip to the bronze-medal game for Canada.
"It seems like we didn’t have legs at the beginning, and they were all over us," offered Jonathan Huberdeau, who was a -4 in the game. "They played great. We’ve got to give them that, but we could have come out and played better."
"It feels awesome," McCabe started, "especially in such an emotional game against Canada. I'm so proud of our team. This was the best game of the tournament for us."
The dynasty hangover continues for Canada. After winning five gold in a row from 1993-97, the team went until 2005 before winning again. It then won five in a row, and has again failed to win since 2009.
"We’ve got to come home with a medal," said Canada's captain, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "It won’t be the one we wanted to come home with, but we’ve got to do it for our country."
Ty Rattie broke Gibson's shutout with a short-handed goal at 4:03 of the final period. The goal extends a streak to 41 games in which Canada has never been shut out in a playoff game since the current U20 format started in 1996.
The Americans are full credit for the victory. They were faster, had better goaltending, and were the more confident team. Canada, on the other hand, looked surprisingly nervous, particularly in the first when the game was up for grabs.
The penalty-free opening period could not have been a more impressive one for the Americans or a more humbling one for Canada. The former got the puck in deep and made the Canadians work to get it back out while in their own end the Americans were first to every puck and moved it out seamlessly. Canada didn’t try to establish a physical game and played conservatively with and without the puck, and the Americans were rewarded for their efforts.
"We played just how we needed to play," McCabe noted. "We kept the puck in their end. We got ahead and stayed out of the box. We used our speed to our advantage."
Captain McCabe got the first of his two goals of the period after some nice work from Riley Barber. He was stoned from in close by Subban but Scott Harrington fell in front of the net, creating chaos among the Canadian players. Barber then got to the puck behind the net and whipped it out to McCabe. His shot through a maze of bodies hit the back of the net untouched at 7:18.
The only decent scoring chance for Canada came at about the 13:30 mark when Dougie Hamilton’s point shot was picked up off the rebound in front by J.C. Lipon, but his quick shot hit the pad of John Gibson, who was in perfect position to make the nice save.
The U.S. doubled their lead at 16:02 on a similar play to the opening goal. McCabe got the puck in the slot and drilled a nice wrister past Subban, down on his knees and unable to react to the screen shot.
"They really didn't know what hit them in the first," McCace added. "You get tell. They were throwing the puck away. We kept them on their heels."
The game opened early in the second period and while Canada had some puck movement, it was the U.S. that made it 3-0 at 2:58 when John Gaudreau used Ryan Murphy as a screen and then ripped a shot over Subban’s glove.
Both teams had a power play in the period, though neither side generated much offense, and the Americans took full control with a 4-0 goal at 12:44. This was a goal of speed and confidence as Jim Vesey drove to the outside around Xavier Ouellet and beat Subban to the far post.
Coach Steve Spott then did the only thing he could do—pulled Subban in favour of Jordan Binnington, who had not played a minute of the tournament so far.
Canada was forced to play wide-open hockey, and although the team generated a few decent chances, Gibson was there to be just a little better every time. Binnington, too, made some fine saves in relief, but after 40 minutes the Americans were thoroughly in control.
Gaudreau closed out the scoring at 15:41 with a breakaway goal to make the win all the more emphatic.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)