The Canadians gutted out a 3-2 win over their neighbors from the south, using great goaltending and timely special teams to get the job done and win the pool.
MALMO, SWEDEN - For 40 minutes, you couldn't slide a dime between the two teams. But a quick burst early in the third period proved to be the difference as Canada beat the previously undefeated Americans in a rousing 3-2 New Year's Eve game.
The Canadians, who have famously struggled with goaltending controversies in recent years, got an inspired performance from Zach Fucale, especially on a late breakaway by Connor Carrick.
"When I saw the breakaway, I knew Zach would step up for us with a save and he did," said Fucale's Halifax Mooseheads teammate Jonathan Drouin. "He's a calm goalie."
For the Americans, the loss represented the first adversity of an otherwise pristine tournament. Canada broke a 1-1 tie with two goals early in the third from Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar (on the power play) and the Americans just couldn't close the gap, even though Hudson Fasching scored late.
Now Team USA must face a quarterfinal test from their Cold War enemies from Russia, while Canada draws Switzerland. While the Canucks won't take the Swiss lightly, it's an easier test to be sure.
Here's a look at some of the NHL prospects and draft hopefuls that stood out in the game.
Zach Fucale, Montreal (36th overall in 2013) – He was the difference for Canada. On top of the insane save on Carrick in the third, there was the monster glovehand on Riley Barber on an early American power play. He was making tough stops even when he had to be scrambly, which is not traditionally his style. The second U.S. goal was preventable, but he earned his player of the game award.
Griffin Reinhart, New York Islanders (4th overall in 2012) – No rust on him. Playing in his first game of the tournament (suspension), Reinhart looked great carrying the puck and threw an early hit to get into the game on his first shift. The Edmonton Oil Kings star played quite often early on and was a calming presence for the defense, which had struggled at times in this tourney.
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay (3rd overall in 2013) – Electrifying when he rushes the puck. His offensive game is on another level when it comes to creativity. Turned the ref into a screen on one rush in the first period and though he admitted that it just sorta happened, it was impressive. His setup on Lazar's goal was very pretty and he played the point on the power play.
Sam Reinhart, 2014 draft – A quick burst and all of a sudden he's in great scoring position. Griffin's younger brother exhibited the great vision and playmaking that have him positioned as one of the best players available this summer. I currently have the Kootenay Ice star No. 1 overall.
Hudson Fasching, Los Angeles (118th overall in 2013) – Physically imposing, gets back on D and creates havoc in front of other net. Easily one of the best Americans in this tourney, his line with Andrew Copp and Stefan Matteau has been excellent. Fasching is a freshman winger with the University of Minnesota.
Steven Santini, New Jersey (42nd overall in 2013) – Great communicator on the ice, almost like a defensive point guard. The Boston College blueliner knows how to break up a play before it gets too dangerous and does so with minimal strain.
Jack Eichel, 2015 draft – Despite being the youngest player on the team, Eichel is getting top power play unit time and has great linemates in Adam Erne and Ryan Hartman. Big, confident and dangerous with the puck, the Boston University commit (currently with the U.S. National Team Development Program) has earned the respect of his coaches.
Nic Kerdiles, Anaheim (36th overall in 2012) – Big, fast, strong and sees the ice well. Could easily play in the NHL next year, though the Ducks won't rush things with the University of Wisconsin left winger.
Get scores, schedules and more on THN.com’s World Junior Championship Central page.