OTTAWA, Canada—In one of the most exciting junior hockey games fans have seen in years, the U.S. fell to their archrivals, Canada, 7–4 at the World Junior Hockey Championships at Scotiabank Place on Wednesday night.
The two countries have staged some hotly contested games in recent years and the rivalry was as intense as ever.
John Tavares, who currently plays with Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League, scored a hat trick to lead Canada to a come-from-behind victory. Tavares is the tournament’s leading scorer with eight goals.
Tavares has taken the tournament by storm and on Wednesday night he confirmed his status as the likely first overall pick in the 2009 entry draft.
After three wins for both Canada and the U.S., the juicy part of the round robin arrived Wednesday as the unbeaten teams faced each other.
In their opening three games, Canada outscored their opponents 28–2 (including a 15–0 win over Kazakhstan) while the U.S. outscored their opponents 24–5 (including a 12–0 win over Kazakhstan).
The U.S. jumped all over Canada, taking a three-goal lead in the first period, as Canadian goalie Dustin Tokarski looked shaky and Canada took too many penalties.
But Canada roared back to tie the contest 3–3 by the end of the first period.
Then controversy struck. Canada took the lead when their player was allowed to leave the penalty box early during a time-clock malfunction. This goal should not have counted and U.S. coach Ron Rolston let the officials know it.
To their credit, the U.S. tied the game at four as Colin Wilson scored on the power play. Tokarski again looked shaky giving up the goal, but he would have his revenge later on.
Cody Hodgson then put Canada back on top 5–4 on the power play as his shot bounced off a U.S. defender past goalie Thomas McCollum.
Tokarski then came up with some amazing saves to preserve Canada’s lead, including robbing Wilson point blank and making a big save on a two-on-one.
Tavares scored his third of the game in an empty net to make it 6–4 and the fans littered the ice with hats.
The win gives Canada an automatic spot in the semifinals on Saturday as Group A winners, while the U.S. will face Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Friday.
In another battle of unbeaten teams, in Group B, Sweden blanked Russia 5–0 earlier on Wednesday. The U.S. would face Sweden in the semis if they beat Slovakia. Canada will face the winner of the game between Russia and the Czech Republic.