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Canada paints the town red, hammers USA 4-1

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

The PA System blared Neil Diamond’s “Today”, but no one really listened.

Then they went to blasting U! S! A! over the loudspeakers to get things rolling, and the minority was quickly drowned out by our friends to the North chanting “Ca-na-da!!!”

Take your Sabres/Leaves game at HSBC in which you heard Toronto fans the loudest, give it playoff style levels, then double the sound and color scheme of the visitors within the building and you get the idea what it was like to be in the arena tonight. The American minority did their best to match the noise but it was hopeless. An absolutely fantanstic, borderline ear-splitting seating bowl greeted the two teams as they headed onto to the ice prior to the start of tonight’s World Juniors semifinal between the homestanding(in geography only) Americans and their rivals from across the border tonight.

It’s a game that needed no hype, but got plenty of it anyway. The Canadians came into tonight’s matchup not just looking for a spot in the gold medal game, but an opportunity to beat down the team that denied them last year’s championship on home ice in Saskatchewan. They stumbled in the preliminary round in falling to Sweden in a shootout, and were forced to play an extra game in the medal round while the Americans received a bye thanks to winning their pool.

And from there on it was complete and utter domination of one side over another. Pretty fitting that the team who brought the most fans was the one that came up big on this night. While the Canadians were sharp, the Americans were sluggish and shaky. While the Canadians were hammering everything in sight, the Americans couldn’t stay out of their own way. Remind me again which team had the two day layoff and which team played just a night before again?

The Canadians looked every bit the look of the hunter, a team hell bent on not only winning a game but exacting revenge in the worst way possible on the team that embarassed them in front of their home fans in the World Juniors a year prior. The Canadian players may have said all the proper and politically correct, non bulletin board material things to the media about the Americans prior to this game, but it was brutally obvious to anyone that saw the game that their play told a different story.

The pasting began just under three minutes in with a goal by Curtis Hamilton thanks to a defensive breakdown, what would be the first of many that would come on the night. The first stanza ended at 2-0 with Quentin Howden piling on with about six minutes left in the period. The scoreboard and stats were heavily in Canada’s favor after the first. But it would be in the second period that Canada would truly begin to assert its control of the game, and where the US would be at its most hapless. First, with the US being outplayed they had the first chance on the power play thanks to a hooking call against Quinton and failed miserably. And as the penalty expired, the US found itself in the penalty box, then two men short just a few seconds later thanks to high sticking and hooking calls against Charlie Coyle and Patrick Wey.

The Canadians, with a five on three opportunity to put the Americans in a deep hole did just that with a goal from Ryan Johanson. 3-0! And even after the power plays ended they continued to dominate in the American end, constantly swarming around Team USA’s net and only some spectacular work by American goaltender Jack Campbell kept the US from trailing by 5 or 6 goals during the second period.
And just as in the second period, the Canadians found themselves shorthanded with an early penalty. And once again the Americans could do next to nothing with the advantage, only to see Sabre draft pick Zack Kassian sneak behind the defense on a break just after the advantage expired. Kassian converts at the 14 minute mark of the period, 4-0. Light. The. Cigar. Canada. And with that, smatterings of American fans could be seen headed for the exit.

A token goal from the United States was scored by Chris Brown near the midway point of the period. But not even the most optimistic of Team USA fans could even imagine a comeback at this point. Didn’t happen. Final score: Canada 4, USA 1.

In the aftermath, some Canadian players admitted that yes, winning this game against this particular team meant plenty to them, none stating it better than Curtis Hamilton when he said “we all remember watching John Carlson’s (gold medal winning) goal many times over the past year, a hundred times possibly but it(the win) meant so much more to the guys that were here last year.”

For the Americans, they were all quick to praise goaltender Jack Campbell for keeping them in some semblence of a position to win the game.”They(the Canadians) were ready for us….we weren’t playing like Team USA in front of him(Campbell)” chimed in Nick Bjugstad. Basically all but admitting that they weren’t as up for this game as their opponents.

Canada’s opponent in the gold medal game will be Russia, who once again pulled some late game magic rallying to tie Sweden in regulation, then defeating them in a shootout(4-3) when overtime couldn’t determine a winner. They’ll play at 7:30 Wedensday night at the HSBC Arena. The game will be preceded by the bronze medal game at 3:30 featuring the USA and Sweden.

Other notes from the night that was:

The one person booed lustily at tonight’s game? The man who distributed the player of game awards: Sabres GM Darcy Regier.

Have to admit, for all the ugliness predicted in the stands over tonights game I wasn’t able to catch any fisticuffs and such in the stands tonight. Perhaps the Canadians just felt sorry for us and didn’t bother.

Caught this tweet from internet columnist Bill Simmons: “This junior hockey game is further proof that we just need to sell Buffalo to Canada. Get it over with already.” So Buffalo? Will you get a chuckle out of this? Or will you get all thin skinned and go Emerson Etem on him? I’m just wondering.

Saddest thing about tonight? The realization that this fantastic event will be coming to its conclusion in just a couple of days. It’s gone by way, way too quickly. I’m sure plenty of you out there agree.

  • Suzanne

    Personally, I’m flattered that (a) the Canadians want us, and (b) they consider us to be more like Canadians than like the public perception of New Yorkers. I will be sad when the tournament is over, too, when many of the Canadians return to their respective parts of North America and our “local” Canadians return to HSBCA on the 11th in their Sabres jerseys, national pride put away for another day. Great coverage, Peter – you and Andrew have done the best job I’ve seen of covering the many layers of this tournament, and it’s been a pleasure to read!