You can take your goals, your chants of “Campbell! Campbell!”. Those were fun and memorable moments during Canada’s 4-1 dismantling of the U.S, but the double-wide truck otherwise known as Zack Kassian and Marcus Folingo provided my highlight of the night.
Midway through the third period, Kassian and Folingo collided with American forward Brock Nelson, sending him toppling into the Canadian bench with a little help from Casey Cizikas. If you squinted hard enough, you could see the tin foil, long dishevelled hair, and Charlestown Chiefs jerseys.
The collision was a microcosm for a game that saw the American’s wilt against their first sustained physical pressure, a complete turnaround from the gold medal game last January in which both goalies were pulled.
It’s a redemption song that has Canada pitted against Russia Wednesday night for the gold medal. Canada aims to complete its mission and regain gold, while Russia looks to end a much longer quest and taste gold at the World Junior Championship for the first time since 2003.
A little more of this, please
I’ve written it every game as either a positive under this heading, or more often as a negative under the headline below, but the impact of a fast start cannot be understated. In each game Canada has either started sluggishly and been behind before the three-minute mark, or they’ve captured that elusive strong start.
Thankfully, tonight it was the latter when Curtis Hamilton scored in the opening minutes, and Canada quickly supported its lead with superior physical play.
Cizikas has easily been Canada’s best grinder throughout the tournament, but tonight his linemates Louis Leblanc and Carter Ashton matched his intensity. The line quickly showed that the best way to match the speed of top Americans like Jason Zucker is with Brute force and physicality. It’s a philosophy that led to turnovers in the Canadian zone, and quick odd-man rushes heading the other way.
It quickly became clear that the U.S. hadn’t played a team that hits this hard, and a team that uses its size this effectively. On the back end Erik Gudbranson was once again steady and reliable, while Tyson Barrie played his best game of the tournament.
The dividing line in this game lied not just in Canada’s physical play, but how it was utilized. The Canadian defence wasn’t caught trying to make that momentum changing, board-unhinging hit, and sacrificing position as they did during Russia’s first goal in the opening game on Boxing Day. The nerves have faded, and have been replaced by quality hockey sense, ice vision, and intelligence.
A little less of this, please
I’m probably the only guy in the country with this particular opinion, and if so it wouldn’t be the first time. Or maybe I’m just reaching to find something–anything–negative to harp on in what was a dominant Canadian win. But there’s something about Mark Visentin that’s still absolutely petrifying. This nightmarish fear started during the quarterfinal game against Switzerland, and even tonight’s euphoria hasn’t made it subside.
I know, I know, he had an assist on Quinton Howden’s goal, handled the puck well to initiate the Canadian rush, and made some key stops on the American powerplays. And indeed, every Canadian is praising his name right now after he won the player of the game award for Canada. But he has the eerie feeling of that time bomb waiting to explode. For every calm and collected save he makes, there seems to be another one right behind it where he’s fighting the puck.
Canada easily controlled puck possession, and at one point in the second period were outshooting the U.S. 27-12 (the U.S finished with 22 shots). Visentin turned aside the few quality scoring chances he did face, but it’s hard to back up that truckload of praise for a goalie that saw minimal rubber, and looked shaky against the Swiss.
Maybe I’m just like that kid who’s afraid of clowns, and have some chronic Mark Visentin phobia. If this re-occurring personal nightmare over a goalie who posted a shutout through two-and-a-half periods is the only negative to be taken away from tonight, then Canada will be just fine.
Random Facts about…the United States of America
I bet you thought since we know so much about our friendly neighbours to the south, there couldn’t possibly be any absurd, random facts about the U.S.A. Wrong.
Boring but important vitals
Largest exports: Electronics, airplanes, motor vehicle parts, dominance of every major North American sport not named hockey.
Most attractive female export
Sure, Hollywood provided many worthy choices, but I couldn’t possibly take a pass on the voice of Mindy in the 2004 box office hit, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie. Also, Johansson is recently single, so we’re saying you have a chance.
- If you ever really, really need a toothpick, make sure you’re in Maine, the state that makes the most toothpicks in the entire country.
- So basically, make sure you stop by Maine before going to Iowa, because that’s home to the country’s largest popcorn plant.
- How well do you know your hangover fast-food history? Well, the next time you’re looking for a good story at 3 a.m. when you’re trying to order 19 Big Mac’s you can tell your buddies that McDonald’s started in San Bernardino, California as a barbecue, car-hop type restaurant.
- Last week Santa was very confused while flying over Uncle Sam’s territory. There are 140 towns and cities that have the world “Christmas” in their name.