Friday, January 1, 2010

WJC: Canada-USA lived up to the hype

If you were scripting the perfect hockey game you'd have to add the following ingredients - two undefeated teams, stacked rosters on both sides, an important reward on the line for the victor, a short handed goal, a penalty shot, three periods of hard hitting action, multiple lead changes, wild momentum swings, overtime and a shootout.

Did I leave anything out? Because the Canada-USA game had all that...and more.

Ten players in this game were taken in the first round of the NHL draft - which is quite a bit more than you'll find in most NHL games.

Team Canada had a line-up of nearly all NHL drafted players. The lone hold out, Taylor Hall, is expected to be a high first round pick in June 2010 - perhaps even going first overall.

Team USA also had a roster full of NHL drafted players...and they had a storyline favored by script writers - the old man and the kid. Veteran Jordan Schroeder, playing in his third and final WJC tournament, entered the game still looking for his first victory over Team Canada. In goal, they had the rookie, Jack Campbell - the seventeen year old future of the program, playing in his first WJC.

In a preview of things to come, the two teams traded goals in the opening five minutes. Washington Capitals draft pick Stefan Della Rovere scored for Canada just 2 minutes into the game, followed two minutes later by Philip McRae for the U.S. (a 2nd round pick of the St. Louis Blues in '08).

Jordan Schroeder, aiming for Jeremy Roenick's American points record, gave Team USA the lead 7 minutes into the second...with a short-handed goal nonetheless.

Five minutes later Canada tied things up again when Jordan Eberle scored, showing why the Oilers made him their first round pick in '08. LA Kings prospect Brayden Schenn assisted on the goal.

With the drama seemingly already at an unbelievable high, it escalated with a penalty shot. Chris Kreider of Boston College (and a NY Rangers draft pick) was stopped by Canadian netminder Jake Allen, leaving the game tied.

After several great scoring chances throughout the second period, the Americans were finally able to take the lead with just seconds left in the period. It was Tyler Johnson putting the U.S. up 3-2 after forty minutes.

Then, just one minute into the third, U.S. forward Danny Kristo silenced the sold out Canadian crowd. Using some fancy stick work he beat Allen to give Team USA a two goal lead.

After last year's disappointing come from ahead loss though, fans of Team USA couldn't start celebrating yet. And sure enough, Canada came back and scored two goals in the final ten minutes (including a second goal of the night from Eberle, with a second assist from Schenn) to force overtime.

The nail biting five minute OT didn't include a goal from either side, so it was on to the shootout.

And what a shootout it was.

First shooter, goal. Second shooter, goal. Third and fourth shooters, goal-goal.

So with things tied in the shootout Canada sent out LA Kings prospect Brandon Kuzon. He scored.

Then it happened. Team USA went with experience and desire. It was Jordan Schroeder's turn. Could he score for the U.S. to keep hope alive? Could he tie things up and give the Americans a chance to beat Team Canada for the first time since 2004?

No. He didn't score. Team USA didn't beat Canada. Another heart breaker.

An emotionally draining, classic game. Enjoy some of the highlights in the official WJC video package:

More than twelve hours later I'm still in awe. Rarely when sporting events are hyped for weeks prior do they deliver. From big fights to important football games, the actual events usually have a hard time delivering on the predicted greatness. In this case, Canada and the U.S. over delivered.

Other WJC notes from Thursday, the final day of opening round play:

* In the game to determine the winner of Pool B, Sweden beat Finland 7-1. Oilers first round pick Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson continued his hot play, picking up another goal. That brought his point total to 9, trailing only Eberle of Canada for the overall lead.

* Switzerland beat Slovakia 4-1. Nino Niederreiter, a 2010 draft eligible player, scored twice for the Swiss. Tampa Bay Lightning pick Richard Panik has been one of the few bright spots for the disappointing Slovakian team this year. He scored his fifth goal, tying him for the overall lead in the tourney.

* Russia beat the Czech Republic 5-2. The game was tied with 6 minutes left in the third. Russia then scored three times to win it. Vladimir Tarasenko, the top rated Russian skater eligible for the NHL draft in June, had two goals in the victory.

Friday is an off day for the WJC. Games will resume on Saturday with two quarter-final contests, Russia-Switzerland and USA-Finland.

The winners will face Canada and Sweden in the semis on Sunday. If everything plays out perfectly, Canada and the U.S. could play in a rematch on Tuesday...for the gold!

The Mayor


Interview with Brandon Kozun

Comments from Brayden Schenn

Jeremy Roenick previews USA-CANADA - a MayorsManor exclusive


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