Canada vs. USA: 'This is redemption'
Canada forward Tyson Jost makes a move on Russia goaltender Ilya Samsonov and scores a goal during the world junior hockey championship in Toronto on Dec. 26, 2016. (Dave Abel/Toronto Sun)
Tyson Jost can’t help but think back to what went down one day in late April.
Just over eight months ago, Jost stood on the ice and watched with dejection as the United States celebrated a bronze-medal win against Canada in the under-18 world hockey championship in Grand Forks, N.D.
You think that loss still resonated with Jost as Canada was making its final preparations to meet the U.S. on Saturday in the 2017 world junior hockey championship?
“This game I have marked down since they took it to us in that game (by a 10-3 score),” Jost said on Friday. “This is a redemption. We’re very familiar with these guys and I guess we have kind of developed a hatred over the past few years.”
The U.S. has become Canada’s main rival at the world junior, taking the spot that was once held by Russia.
On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, in an Air Canada Centre that should be rocking (despite less-than-capacity crowds this week), more than just bragging rights will be on the line.
Pride — there’s zero doubt about that — and first place in Group B, which is coveted by both sides, are at stake. We know Canada, which is scheduled to head to Montreal for the medal round following the game, has had designs on putting together a perfect record since the disaster of sixth place last year in Helsinki.
That terrible finish might not necessarily be driving this group now. The Canadians have created their own foundation of confidence and are in a good spot, having relatively cruised through the first three games of the tournament, going 3-0 while scoring 20 goals and allowing only five.
The U.S. will represent Canada’s toughest opponent, and it’s no longer guaranteed-win night was it was versus Slovakia and Latvia. That Canada has a record of 34-8-3 against the U.S. in the history of the event has small bearing.
There’s no room for error or a bad decision against tough opponents in the world junior. One mistake made, or taken advantage of, can set a team on a different path.
“We are maybe a little bit alike but we will see on the ice,” Canada coach Dominique Ducharme said. “The more we go on in the tournament, those kinds of details are going to be the difference. Our guys know the impact of little things in the game. Discipline, staying composed, overall we have been good.”
It remains to be seen whether forward Mitchell Stephens, who did not play in the win against Latvia because of an ankle injury, is in the lineup. Stephens practised at the MasterCard Centre on Friday with the rest of his teammates and will be a game-time decision.
Ducharme, in keeping to the script, would not say whether Carter Hart or Connor Ingram will start in goal.
One factor that should have an influence is the fact the Canadians and Americans know each other rather well. They’ve been playing against each other in tournaments since they were youngsters, and in the case of defenceman Dante Fabbro, he will be surrounded by players from the U.S. side when he returns to Boston University in January. No less than six of his B.U. teammates are wearing the red, white and blue here.
“We’re enemies now and that is kind of the bottom line,” Fabbro said. “It’s going to be a little weird having them on the other side. Right now, I’m more focused on what’s going on in the Canadian locker room.”
Fabbro and Michael McLeod also were part of that Canadian team that was crushed by the U.S. at the under-18s in the spring. Seven Americans on the U.S. roster have a bronze medal from that victory.
It’s one of several intense chapters that make the games between Canada and the U.S. so compelling. Jost figured we’re going to get another one for history books.
“It’s going to be electric,” Jost said. “How could it not? It’s something that gets your blood boiling a little bit and I know they feel the same way about us.”
BOTH GOALIES WILL GET TIME
Sounds like we will see both Canadian goalies again before the 2017 world junior ends.
Coach Dominique Ducharme and his staff have full confidence in both Carter Hart and Connor Ingram, and with the potential for three games in four nights in the medal round, neither is being counted out.
“Once we get (to Montreal), it doesn’t mean the guy playing in the quarters will be the guy playing after,” Ducharme said. “It depends on who we are going to be facing and (an opponent’s) different styles.
“One thing for sure is we want our two guys to be involved and ready to play. We’ll see how we do it.”
Ducharme would not say who starts on Saturday, but we’re willing to bet he has known for a while which goalie it will be.
Hart was in goal for wins against Russia and Latvia, while Ingram had to make just six saves in a shutout versus Slovakia.