USA Wins Instant Classic to Advance to WJC Finals

USA Wins Instant Classic to Advance to WJC Finals

Steven Ellis04 Jan 2017Steven Ellis»
 

The United States will hold on to their perfect record and will play in the 2017 World Junior finals thanks to a 4-3 shootout victory at the Air Canada Centre.

 
 
 
 

The United States will hold on to their perfect record and will play in the 2017 World Junior finals thanks to a 4-3 shootout victory at the Air Canada Centre.

Despite a dominant preliminary round that saw them slide all the way through, the Americans did not have history on their side. The Russians had eliminated the Americans in three straight tournaments and are 0-7 in elimination games against their cold war rivals. Additionally, it's been very rare over the past five years to have a team win both games against one opponent in the same tournament.

With that in mind, the Russians struck first. Kirill Kaprizov got his eighth goal of the tournament after keeping the play alive along the boards before Mikhail Vorobyov picked up the puck behind the net. Kaprizov would later receive it and faked out the American defence by dancing around behind the net before capitalising on the wraparound, putting the Russians in front with the 1-0 lead.

The Americans, though, would tie the game up at one apiece after 20 minutes. In the final minute of the first, Clayton Keller's shot from a tough angle along the boards was tipped in by Colin White and somehow snuck past Ilya Samsonov's glove and in for the 1-1 goal.

The Russians would take back the lead at 1:17 in the second. Casey Fitzgerald would get completely outmatched by Pavel Karnaukhov, before allowing Dallas Stars prospect Denis Guryanov to come in from behind the net and knock in a Vadim Kudako rebound to make it 2-1 for the team in red.

USA would notch two goals in the row in the second to take the lead. At 30:23 on the power play, American goaltender Tyler Parsons sent the puck all the way down the ice to Jordan Greenway in the neutral zone. Greenway would enter the zone before sending a pass towards the net. American captain Luke Kunin was in a perfect spot to re-direct the puck, putting it past Samsonov and tying it up at two apiece.

Then, at 36:21, the Americans struck again. This time, White put up his second goal of the game after sending a shot from the slot that bounced off Montreal Canadiens prospect Mikhail Sergachev and in for the go-ahead goal, the first lead of the game for the North American squad.

Five minutes into the third period, the Russians could have been put away on a Clayton Keller penalty shot. Fortunately for them, a big stop by Samsonov gave the team extra momentum to tie the game up. At 46:03, Guryanov finished off a hit on Ryan Lindgren and skated into the Russian zone, picking up the puck to go on a breakaway. The AHL forward made no mistake on the chance, firing a hard, quick shot past Parsons and in to tie the game up at three in a battle nobody wanted to miss.

Considered by many to be the best game of the tournament, the contest would head to overtime with the next goal deciding who would play for gold. But even then, neither team could find the back of the net. The closest chance saw Keller shoot the puck on net, only to have Samsonov make a sprawling stop in the crease to just keep the puck out and keep the game tied before the start of the shootout. The shootout was thrilling as well, with Troy Terry scoring three five-hole goals on Samsonov to lead the Americans to the 4-3 victory and managed to beat Russia for the first time in an elimination game in eight tries.

With the win, the United States will play the winner of Sweden vs Canada, set for tonight, at 8:00 PM in the gold medal game. Russia, however, will have to settle for the bronze medal contest at 3:30 PM to end the tournament.

Follow me on Twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

Photo from Anders Marshall/EuroHockey.com.

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