Shootout Was Awful Way to Decide Canada-USA World Junior Classic
It's a shame this thrilling final had to be determined on a skills competition thanks to international hockey rules.
The gold-medal matchup that we all wanted to see ended up delivering in a massive way.
Despite the utter shittiness of a game that exciting, with that much on the line, ending in a gimmicky, breakaway-style skills competition, the fourth edition of the gold-medal final between Team Canada and USA even had analysts like Bob McKenzie saying it was one of the best world junior games he'd ever seen—and that guy has watched a lot of puck.
After a wild first 60 minutes that saw eight goals scored, including four in the third frame, the championship game went to overtime for the fourth year in a row. After neither team managed to put home the eighth sudden-death winner in the tournament's history, the game headed to the much maligned (for one team, at least) shootout.
After scoring three times in the deciding shootout during Wednesday's semifinal against Russia, Team USA forward Troy Terry scored another one as he went five-hole for the fourth time in as many attempts. Nicolas Roy, who had a huge goal to put Canada up 3-2 in the third, saw the puck, along with Canada's gold medal, roll off his stick as Team USA claimed its third straight victory over Canada in gold-medal games with a 5-4 win.
And holy shit, what a game it was. One that saw 17 first-round draft picks take the ice with several seemingly ready to make the jump to the NHL sooner than later. Twice Canada had two-goal leads, twice the Americans tied it up. Every timely save Canadian goaltender Carter Hart made, Team USA stopper Tyler Parsons had an answer for. Canada missed several glorious chances in the third and overtime, while team USA missed a few of its own.
After the Americans took a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty early in overtime, Canada, despite a plethora of golden opportunities, was unable to cash in on the powerplay. As the teams went back and fourth, end to end, one thing became clear—it would be fine if the game just didn't end at all.
Unfortunately, though, one team had to win, and even more unfortunately, a game played that hard and with such passion and emotion had to be decided by a shootout. Thanks, international hockey.
"It's a pretty terrible feeling right now," Canadian forward Mitchell Stephens said after the game. "It's one of those things where it's a skills competition at the end. You could flip a coin for who is going to win."
Team USA won that coin flip and, with it, the gold medal. It's safe to say if the game ended with a different result, Canada's thoughts on the shootout would be a little different.
Canada's four goal scorers in the game—Roy, Thomas Chabot, Jeremy Lauzon, and Mathieu Joseph—all hail from the QMJHL and tallied big goals in front of friends and family at the packed Bell Centre in Montreal.
Unlike the World Cup, where the omissions of goal scorers like Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan resulted in a disastrous tournament for Team USA, the controversial releasing of OHL points leader Alex DeBrincat a few days before the tournament worked out OK for the Americans, which found offence through many sources, like Terry and Colin White, in DeBrincat's absence.
It's extremely difficult to beat the same team twice in a short tournament, but the Americans did just that to both Russia and Canada as four of their seven wins came against two of the pre-tournament favourites. Canada won't get another crack at the United States until Dec. 29, 2017 at New Era Field in Buffaloin what will be the first-ever world junior outdoor game.
Though it ended with the ever-polarizing shootout that most fans and players despise, the game was an all-time classic. For a few hours, at least, the kids with the Canadian sweaters on made a whole country feel like children again.