U.S. wins North American tilt

U18: Team books rematch vs. Sweden with 2-1 win over Canada

Kajot Arena Brno  Czech Republic

Team USA will face Sweden with gold on the line for the third straight time at a U18 World Championship. Goals by JT Compher and Kyle Osterberg sparked the Americans to the semi-final victory. Photo: Jana Chytilova / HHOF-IIHF Images

United States – Canada 2-1 (1-1, 0-0, 1-0)

BRNO – In a tightly-contested match marked by clean hits and strong physical play, the United States prevailed 2-1 over Canada to set up a third straight rematch against Sweden in the final of the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.

Kyle Osterberg scored the game-winning goal as the U.S. overcame a spirited effort from the Canadians to set the stage for a potential fourth straight gold medal.

“There’s no greater feeling than getting one up on Canada…there’s really no words to describe it,” said Osterberg after the game.

The Americans defeated Canada 5-3 in their final preliminary round game Tuesday, earning a bye into the semis after finishing the preliminary round first in Group A with an unbeaten record. Canada beat Russia 4-2 in the quarter-finals to earn a rematch with their North American rivals.

As in their first game, the teams came into the third period with the score tied. A big open-ice hit by Canadian captain Matt Dumba on Andrew Copp at the blue line got a loud response from his team bench near the start of the frame, hoping to shift the momentum to the Canadian side. But only minutes later U.S. captain Seth Jones blasted a puck from the high slot area. The shot missed wide of the Canadian net but was picked up by teammate Kyle Osterberg behind the net, who slotted it home on the wraparound for the go-ahead goal.  

Down 2-1 and facing elimination, Canada began to play with a sense of urgency, which meant giving up more than a few odd man rushes to the U.S. The Canadians had the best chance to tie at 6:37 when Ryan Hartman was called for interference on a hit against Felix Girard, but the team could not capitalize.

“It was exactly what we expected, a tight game against a great team with a lot of good players,” said Team Canada head coach Jesse Wallin. “I thought their defence did a great job keeping us to the outside and they were tough to forecheck.”

“The last goal was a tough goal to give up,” said Wallin. “We didn’t finish our check in the neutral zone, if we finish that check and eliminate their defenceman then the puck doesn’t end up in our zone, but it’s those little details that are the difference, and they were a little better at the details than us tonight.”

The game started in typical fashion for a Canada-USA match. The Americans tested goaltender Matt Murray early and often and both teams delivered a steady stream of body checks on one another as they battled for puck possession. The United States drew first blood at 10:36 when Matt Lane won the puck along the boards and then dropped a pass down to JT Compher. Compher beat Murray with a shot from the side of the net from a tough angle to score.

The game took a bizarre turn near the end of the period, when U.S. forward Andrew Copp got checked into the netting behind Murray’s goal. Compher’s facemask got caught in the netting, and he had to remove it and go to the bench. In the meantime Canada found itself on an impromptu 5-on-4, and Gemel Smith scored with a long shot from the blue line to tie the game 1-1 going into the first intermission.

"I’ve never had that happen to me before,” said a relieved Copp after the game. “I was panicking and trying to figure out what to do, then I just took it off and left it there and sprinted for the bench. I was hoping they weren’t gonna score but that’s exactly what happened, but fortunately it ended well.”

The U.S. held the puck for most of the second frame but neither team could find the back of the net. Both goaltenders caught a few breaks, first Murray whose crossbar deflected a high shot away from the net, and with Olson who was beaten on a shot that hit the right post and out.

Canadian discipline broke down near the end of the period, with consecutive penalties on Adam Pelech and Felix Girard forcing the penalty killers to be on the ice for the final four minutes. But the team held on and the score remained 1-1 going into the second intermission.

The victory means the three time defending champions will take on Sweden on Sunday for the gold medal. In the last two championship finals, the U.S. beat the Swedes each time to claim gold. Canada will face Finland in the bronze medal game, also on Sunday.

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