DIGBY, N.S. – Kyle Connor scored twice in the last four minutes, including the eventual game-winner into an empty net, to help the United States to a 4-3 pre-tournament victory over Canada West ahead of the 2013 World Junior A Challenge on Saturday night.
Karson Kuhlman also had a third-period goal for the Americans, who erased a 2-1 deficit after 40 minutes to win the 2012 gold medal game rematch; the U.S. topped Canada West 6-3 to claim its fourth gold medal last November in Yarmouth, N.S.
Dane Birks (Williams Lake, B.C./Merritt, BCHL) and Maddison Smiley (Airdrie, Alta./Brooks, AJHL) scored second-period goals for Canada West, helping it to a one-goal lead heading to the final 20 minutes.
Jeff Wight (Coquitlam, B.C./Merritt, BCHL) had the other Canadian goal, scoring with 0.6 seconds left in the game after Connor’s empty-netter had put the game away for the Americans.
After a scoreless first period, Birks and Smiley scored five minutes apart midway through the second for a two-goal Canadian lead, only to see Neal Pionk pull one back on the power play for the U.S. just 2:10 after Smiley’s goal.
Kuhlman tied the game at 7:03 of the third period, before Connor scored at 16:07 and 19:27.
Both teams split their goaltending duties; Cal Petersen got the start for the U.S. before giving way to Chris Birdsall, while Jesse Jenks (Crofton, B.C./Prince George, BCHL) and Tommy Nixon (Sherwood Park, Alta./Sherwood Park, AJHL) went 30 minutes each for Canada West.
Canada West opens its tournament Monday afternoon (4 p.m. AT) against Switzerland, while the Americans open defense of their gold medal against Russia on Tuesday night (8 p.m. AT).
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)