Canada defeated USA 3-2 to take first place in Group A heading to the quarter-finals on Thursday. The New Year's Eve game was thrilling from start to finish.
The first period was exactly as one might have expected: plenty of hitting, end-to-end action, and some tentative play. The Americans had the better of puck possession perhaps, but Canada had its moments and goalie Zachary Furcale made the biggest save of the period when he robbed Riley Barber with his glove hand.
Nerves out of the way, teams played a more lively second, aided in part by a couple of penalties that paved the way for the opening goal. With teams playing four a side, U.S. captain Riley Barber got the puck to the side of the Canadian net and skated to the far side where his wraparound fooled Furcale, who thought Barber would skate in front on the near side.
The goal, at 3:29, woke the Canadians up, and they dominated much of the rest of the period. Jonathan Drouin ripped a shot off the post on a two-on-one, and Canada got even at 12:19 on a great effort from Anthony Mantha.
After making a nice deke with his long reach in the slot, and while being hauled down to draw a penalty, he pushed the puck over to Nic Petan who had the open side of the goal to work with. He didn’t miss.
Teams exchanged power plays early in the third, and it was Canada which capitalized. Connor McDavid pushed the puck through a maze that beat Jon Gillies from in close at 3:54 to give Canada its first lead.
Canada drew another penalty soon after and scored again with the extra man to make it 3-1. This time it was a great pass from Drouin in the corner to Curtis Lazar, who merely had to re-direct the puck past Gilles.
Canada was in full control at this point, and the fans were partying like they were in Moose Jaw, not Malmo. But on another power play the team got complacent and surrendered a breakaway to Connor Garrick, who was stoned by Furcale to keep the two-goal lead.
No sooner had Furcale made the great save, though, than he whiffed on a routine shot from Stefan Matteau at 17:15 to set up a tense finish.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)