PARDUBICE, Czech Republic – Canada will go for its fourth straight gold medal at the U20 World Championship after earning a 4-1 win against the United States. Canada will face Sweden in tomorrow’s gold medal game.
Whenever USA and Canada meet, it is sure to be a memorable affair, and these two U20 teams did not disappoint. It was by far the hardest-hitting game of the entire championship and surely one of the more memorable for the thousands of Canadian fans on hand in CEZ Arena in Pardubice. In the end, the Canadians, who have now won seven of the last eight meetings between the teams, showed poise when it counted and skated into the golden game.
It was a game that Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg dubbed, "a typical North American clash, full of yapping and physical play."
A two-goal second period by the Canadians proved to be the difference in the victory as the U.S. never fully regrouped from the deficit. Shawn Matthias opened the scoring 2:46 into the period, reaching around the crease and beating U.S. goaltender Jeremy Smith on the far side.
The second Canada goal came after the U.S. gave up the power-play tally at the midway mark of the game. Canada controlled the puck in the U.S. zone as Kyle Turris fed Karl Alzner from behind the net for the 2-0 lead. The American frustration was clear after the second goal as the team took three consecutive penalties, all but killing any hope for offense in the remainder of the period.
"It's surprising I ended up with the game winning goal," said Alzner. "That's not often happening, The play was perfectly set up for me. We're playing better the more important the games get."
Canada continued to roll in the third period as the Americans, despite only trailing by two, never seemed to threaten for the lead. The game was sealed when Canada scored back-to-back goals just 20 seconds apart to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Brandon Sutter fed Colton Gilies a pass on the rush for the important 3-0 goal, and before the fans had a chance to stop their goal celebration, Brad Marchand added another goal on the face-off play.
"You can never play a perfect game but tonight we got something from everyone on the team," said Hartsburg. "Hopefully we have saved our best game for tomorrow."
U.S. offensive leader James van Riemsdyk added the only goal for the Americans, but it had little impact as Canada easily held on for the 4-1 win.
The first period was a far cry from the latter part of the game as there was little room for error on either side. The evenly-matched teams treated the pro-Canadian crowd to a hard-hitting period. The best scoring chance of the first 20 minutes came when Canada skated down ice with an odd-man rush, but did not finish the play.
For the Americans it is the fourth straight year in the bronze medal game. They will face Russia, who lost the early semi-final game against Sweden. The U.S. won the bronze last year, but finished in fourth place in 2005 and 2006.
"I don't consider this a setback, I'd rather call it a situation," said U.S. head coach John Hynes. "One team had to lose today, that's the challenges of the World Juniors when you get to the knock out stage."
Both the gold and bronze medal games are rematches from the preliminary round. Sweden defeated Canada, 4-3, while the U.S. beat Russia, 3-2, in the early stage of the championship.