Canada waited a year for this moment.
Facing the defending gold medal winner USA in the semifinals of the World Junior Hockey Championship, Canada took over Buffalo and played their best game of the tournament winning 4–1.
By some observers, Canadians made up roughly 75 percent of the attendance at the HSBC Arena. It was certainly a sea of red and white, the colors of Canada. It must have felt like home ice to the Canadians.
Last year in Saskatoon, Canada, the United States defeated their hosts in overtime to take the gold medal. But on Monday, Canada returned the favor and will face Russia for the gold medal on Wednesday. The United States faces Sweden for the bronze medal.
The U.S. team was a slight favorite in this game given their clear advantage in goal and eight returning players. Goaltender Jack Campbell has the experience of last year’s victory. He had another terrific game, keeping his team in the game as they were badly outshot 41–24.
The U.S. team plays a fast-paced game built on speed whereas Canada’s strengths are the physical aspect, going hard to the net, and winning the battle on the boards. On this night, Canada’s physical game was too much for the United States to handle as the visitors got off to a quick start in the first period and didn’t let USA turn the game into a track meet.
American-born Curtis Hamilton gave Canada an early lead in the first period before Quinton Howden made it a two-goal lead as he tipped a centering pass by Campbell.
“We did a good job of getting the first one and then just rolling from there,” said Hamilton in an interview with TSN.
“We’re pretty proud of ourselves,” said Marcus Foligno, who is a Buffalo Sabres draft pick. His brother Nick Foligno represents the United States.
The United States was the least penalized team coming in to the tournament but they took two penalties in quick succession in the second period to give Canada a two-man advantage.
Canada’s Ryan Johansen banged home a rebound off a Ryan Ellis shot to make it 3–0 with the two-man advantage.
The teams traded goals in the third period as Chris Brown spoiled Mark Visentin’s shutout bid.
“They [my teammates] didn’t give them much out there. We played them hard for a solid 60 minutes,” Visentin told TSN.
Canadian hockey analyst Bob McKenzie called Canada’s effort “one of the most perfect games played by Canada at a World Junior Hockey Championship.”
Russia Upsets Sweden
After a thrilling end to the third period and overtime, Russia defeated Sweden in a shootout 4–3 earlier in the day.
In the shootout, after Sweden’s first two shooters failed to score, Russia’s Anton Golubev slid one under Robin Lehner. Anton Lander had to score but his shot rung off the post in the decisive moment.
Russia lost to Sweden in the round robin part of the tournament but got off to a great start taking a 2–0 lead before Sweden stormed back to take a 3–2 lead late in the third period with a power play goal from Patrick Cehlin.
But the Russians tied it up with 1:27 left as Sergei Kalinin jabbed a loose puck past Lehner in a mad scramble in front of the Swedish net.
Russian goalie Dimitri Shikin was outstanding in this game.
Sweden last won gold in 1981 and was favored to get past Russia who started the tournament by losing their first two games.