USA vs. Canada, does it get any better than this? The next chapter between these eternal rivals was about to be written. The winner moves on to face Czechia for gold, and the loser will face off against Sweden for Bronze. A common theme during this tournament was how electric the crowd was. It was no different to start this one, as the crowd was absolutely buzzing before the puck even dropped. The game struggled to get any real pace going early as there were several whistles in the first 1:14. The Americans won an offensive zone faceoff where a point shot was blocked in the slot. Still, Logan Cooley jumped all over the loose puck and made no mistake scoring his sixth goal of the tournament. The goal absolutely took all the energy out of the building, leaving the Canadian crowd very quiet. If it weren’t for Thomas Milic, this game would have been over before it started. The Americans dominated Canada in the first five minutes of action as they outshot Canada 9-0. Canada finally managed to generate some offensive zone time. It almost resulted in a delay of game penalty for the Americans, but it was determined the puck hit the glass before going out of play. The same player, Duke, was under pressure again from the Canadians, and this time he did shoot the puck straight out of play for a delay of game penalty.
Canada’s electric power play went to work, but full credit to Trey Augustine, who made several spectacular saves. The American penalty kill managed to keep the ever-dangerous Canadian power play off the scoreboard. The Americans went right back to the attack after the Canadian power play peppered Milic with shots. In one sequence, Milic made a couple of saves, then Luke Hughes had a wide-open net, but somehow the puck stayed out as he hit the post. With 9:30 remaining in the opening frame, the Americans struck again as Kenny Connors made it 2-0. Canada finally gets on the board. Who scored it? None other than Connor Bedard, of course! He finished off a gorgeous pass from del Mastro for his 9th goal of the tournament sending the crowd into an absolute frenzy. The goal went to team Canada’s legs as they spent the next couple in the American zone. The Canadians were also starting to lay the body as Fantilli and Beck laid monstrous hits, one in the offensive zone and the other in the neutral zone. With 4:10 remaining in the period Brendt Clarke sacrificed his body, making a key block with his right knee. After the play left the Canadian zone Clarke made his way to the bench and headed directly to the Team Canada dressing room. Good news for Canada, as Clarke did return to the game. He didn’t miss a single shift. Time would expire in the first period with the score 2-1 in favor of the Americans. Shots on goal in the period were 18-13 in favor of the USA.
The Americans came flying out of the gate to start the second. Cooley gained a step on del Mastro, who found Snuggerud but Milic made another big save even though he wasn’t sure where the puck was after the save. Logan Stankoven wins an offensive zone face off, then goes to the net where the puck finds him, and he makes absolutely no mistake scoring his third goal of the tournament to tie the game up 2-2 just 47 seconds into the period. That goal got the Canadian faithful back in the game as the volume from the fans increased substantially. Owen Beck, who replaced the injured Colton Dach, was definitely making his presence felt as he got in on the forecheck to get the puck back for Canada. Beck got the point back to the point, then over to Fantilli, who wired it off the far post. Canada was called for their first penalty of the game as Dylan Guenther was called for slashing. Full credit to team Canada, as they were incredibly aggressive during the penalty kill. Also, credit to Thomas Milic, as he also came up with some fantastic saves during the penalty kill. Canada really upped their tempo from the first period, which was quite evident as they started attacking the Americans in waves. Zach Dean gained the American zone and drove the net, where he made a fantastic pass across the crease to find a streaking Adam Fantilli to give Canada their first lead of the game.
Thomas Milic continued his stellar work in the Canadian goal and kept making big saves, one after another. It looked as though the Americans had tied the game, but Canada elected to challenge for goaltender interference. After the video review was complete, it was determined that there was goalie interference as Blake made contact with Milic in the crease, keeping it a 3-2 game in favor of Canada. Shane Wright made a fantastic play to find Dylan Guenther in motion, but Augustine came up with one of his biggest saves so far in the game. While the Americans controlled most of the play in the second period, Canada capitalized on their opportunities. Joshua Roy found a loose puck in the slot and made quick work burying his fifth of the tournament, doubling Canada’s lead, making it a 4-2 game. The Thomas Milic story continued as he once again came up with another massive save, bringing the Canadian faithful to their feet as he had done several times throughout this game. Lipkin of team USA was called for interference as he slashed the stick out of a Canadian defender’s hands as the Americans gained the Canadian zone on the attack.
This was Canada’s second power play of the game. They could not score on their first opportunity, but they managed to generate six shots on goal. Canada’s top unit put on an absolute clinic again as they fired shot after shot at Augustine, but he continued to shut the door. Connors managed to break away alone shorthanded for the Americans, but once again, Thomas Milic made another big save. With 2:41 remaining in the second, del Mastro was called for holding, giving team USA their second power play of the game. Zach Dean cleared the puck, but it deflected off of one of the linesmen, which resulted in a short handed breakaway for Joshua Roy, but he wasn’t able to capitalize. The Americans went the other way, but once again, Milic shut the door. Team Canada was able to kill off the man advantage, but team USA did generate two shots on goal. The Canadian crowd would come to their feet to salute team Canada as the second period came to a close. Canada would carry their 4-2 lead into the final period of regulation. Shots on goal after 40 minutes of play were 33-26 in favor of team USA.
Once again, the Americans came out flying to start the third. They thought they had made it 4-3 less than a minute into the period, but it was blatantly obvious the Americans pushed Milic’s pad into the net after he made the initial save. 1:51 into the final frame, one of Canada’s top penalty killers, Ethan del Mastro, was called for delay of game as he shot the puck out of play in his own zone. In the first 1:17 of the man advantage, the Americans hit the post twice. Thomas Milic went post to post on two separate occasions to make two stupendous saves. Milic went out to play the puck, but the puck somehow deflected off of the glass back out in the slot; Milic scrambled back and kept the puck out. There were penalties on both teams due to the scrum that happened after that wild sequence resulting in four on four play for the next two minutes. The relentless attack from the Americans was very evident in the third period. It felt like seven of the first eight minutes were spent in the Canadian zone, but Milic continued to stand his ground. As I mentioned in the second period, however, while the Americans controlled most of the play, team Canada capitalized on their opportunities. This proved to be true once again as Brendt Clarke found a loose puck in the slot, and he made no mistake, ripping his second of the tournament past Augustine, giving Canada a 5-2 lead with 10:15 remaining in regulation. A fantastic rush from Brennan Othmann, who used his speed to generate an odd-man rush where he found Shane Wright all alone, but Wright initially fumbled the puck. With 3:46 remaining in regulation, Zach Dean was called for high sticking.
The Americans elected to pull Augustine to give them a six on four man advantage while trailing by three goals. Joshua Roy, arguably Canada’s best skater in this one, stripped the puck from Luke Hughes and made no mistake finding the empty net with his fifth of the tournament, making it 6-2 Canada, and the party was on in Halifax. As the final minute began to count down, the crowd started to chant, “we want gold.” Tomorrow they will have the opportunity to do just that as they will face off against Czechia for gold. Shots on goal at the end of regulation were 45-37 in favor of the USA. Worth noting Czechia is the only team to beat Canada thus far in the tournament, so it should be a fantastic gold medal game. The Americans will go on to play Sweden for the bronze medal. The outstanding play of Thomas Milic cannot be stressed enough in this game. While getting going took his team a while, he held his ground and gave them a fighting chance. Coming into this tournament, many people said the weak link of this Canadian team would be the goaltending. It’s safe to say that Thomas Milic has put all of those takes to bed. The player of the game for team USA was Kenny Connors, while the player of the game for Canada was none other than Thomas Milic. The three best players of team USA for the tournament were Luke Hughes, Jimmy Snuggerud, and Logan Cooley. While the three best players for team Canada were Joshua Roy, Logan Stankoven, and of course, Connor Bedard.