With first place in Group A on the line, Canada scored a comeback victory over the United States, winning 5-4 in a dramatic shootout to clinch a bye into the semifinals of the world junior hockey championship.
Canada trailed 4-2 with just over ten minutes to play when Jordan Eberle notched his second of the game to cut the American lead in half. Alex Pietrangelo tied it with a short-handed snipe with 4:15 remaining, setting up the dramatic extra session.
After a scoreless five minute 4-on-4 overtime session, the teams headed for a shootout. The first five shooters all scored, including Canada's first three. Eberle, Nazem Kadri and Brandon Kozun all beat American goaltender Jack Campbell, forcing the Americans to follow suit. Their first two shooters also scored, but Jordan Schroeder was stopped by Jake Allen, sending the Canadian crowd in Saskatoon into a frenzy.
"I'd already had a test on him in the second period and he beat me," Allen said of the shootout showdown against Schroeder. "So luckily enough, I got the best of him on that one."
"We had them right where we wanted them," Schroeder told the Canadian Press. "We let it slip at the end, but that's part of hockey.
"We have to move forward. If we can get through Finland and Sweden, hopefuly we'll see them in the championship game. It was a good test for both of us. Now we know that we stood up against them and we know we can take them."
It was another classic game between these two rivals.
"The emotion, the intensity in that game was unbelieveable," said Kozun after potting the shootout winner. "Obviously we were a little bit tense, but I think the big thing with Canadians is that you always keep going no matter what the score, no matter how you are playing. You just keep going and I think we did a good job there and we've got to keep building for the next game."
Eberle said the Canadians have a distinct advantage in these situations.
"It seems like always we find a way to battle back," Eberele said. "We've have something on all the other teams and that's the will to win, the Canadian heart. We want to win so bad, and that just wins us games. It happened last year and it definitely happend in this game."
The opening period was fast-paced, with Canada getting on the board first when Stefan Della Rovere scored on a rebound 2:03 into the game. The lead did not last long as Philip McRae tied it less than two minutes later on an American powerplay.
Canada suffered from several defensive breakdowns in the second period and the Americans took full advantage. Schroeder scored on a short-handed breakaway to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead at 7:08 of the second period, but Eberle tied again at 11:15 with a slick move in front of the U.S. net.
A few minutes later, Chris Kreider of the U.S. was awarded a penalty shot after another Canadian giveaway, but he was stopped by Allen. Kyle Palmieri had another breakaway with 6:15 left in the period, but Allen stopped him, too.
The Americans, however, took a 3-2 lead with another short-handed goal as the second period was winding down. This time, it was Tyler Johnson banging home a rebound with 11 seconds left as the U.S. took a one-goal lead into the second intermission.
When Danny Kristo scored for the United States a minute into the third period to put the Americans in front 4-2, the Canadians appeared headed for defeat, but the Americans could not hold down the fort as Eberle and Pietrangelo tied the score.
Canada thought they had the go-ahead goal with 2:10 to go, but the referee had blown the whistle for a crease violation just before the puck entered the net and it was waived off.
Canada claimed a bye straight in to the seminfinals, while the USA will have to play a quarterfinal game against Finland (9pm et/6pm pt on TSN, TSN HD and TSN.ca). Russia will play Switzerland in the other quarterfinal game (4:30pm et/1:30pm pt on TSN, TSN HD and TSN.ca).
Earlier Thursday, Sweden clinched first place in Group B with a 7-1 win over Finland, earning a bye in to the semifinals.
With the extra rest, Team Canada won't be sitting on their laurels waiting for an opponent. As Eberle noted, Canada still has some work to do before the semifinals.
"You let in two shorthanded goals and one right at the end (of the second period) and its hard to win hockey games when that happens," he said. "Our powerplay wasn't clicking and that's usually our strength. We have to be able to fix that up and try to recover."
"Maybe people will say we didn't play well, but we did, it's just that the U.S. played unreal," Canadian coach Willie Desjardins told the Canadian Press. "We were lucky tonight."
Notes: Canada played without defenceman Calvin de Haan, who is missing his second straight game due to an upper body injury. Jordan Caron was forced to leave the game after the first period due to illness.
Canada 5, United States 4 (Shootout)
1. Canada - Della Rovere (Adam, Caron), 2:03.
2. United States - McRae (D'Amigo) PP, 3:40.
3. United States - Schroeder (Johnson) SH, 7:08
4. Canada - Eberle (Schenn, Scandella) 11:15
5. United States - Johnson, (D'Amigo) SH, 19:49
6. United States - Kristo (Stepan), 1:01
7. Canada - Eberle (Schenn, McMillan), 10:03
8. Canada - Pietrangelo, SH, 15:45
Canada - Eberle, Goal
United States - Kristo, Goal
Canada - Kadri, Goal
United States - Morin, Goal
Canada - Kozun, Goal
United States - Schroeder, Save
Canada - Jake Allen
USA - Jack Campbell