Tuesday, January 5, 2010

WJC Final: USA vs. Canada - Live Blog

Countless scouting eyes will be looking on tonight as surprise finalists Team USA take on hosts and tournament favorites Canada for World Junior Championships gold tonight.  Despite how that last sentence reads, USA had Canada on the brink of defeat just 5 nights ago in the preliminary round.  It took a third period comeback and later a shootout for Canada to take down the Americans for first place in Group A and a bye into the semifinals.  USA was forced to take the scenic route, taking care of Finland in the quarterfinals and upsetting defending silver medalists Sweden in the semifinals.

Check out the IIHF preview here, and I'll be back at gametime (8pm ET) with another live blog.  If you want to watch at home, the NHL Network will have live coverage and the Rangers prospects in the game all play on Team USA: Derek Stepan (C, #21), Chris Kreider (#20), and Ryan Bourque (#17).

First Period
0:00 - Mike Lee in net for the 3rd consecutive game.  Jake Allen between the pipes for Canada.  Derek Stepan in the pregame interview: "A good night for me is 5 or 6 hits."  And he just happens to have 12 points in the tournament to lead Team USA.  I love to hear this as a Rangers fan.  Stepan wins the opening faceoff.

1:15 - Ryan Bourque with a great opening shift, using his speed and body to create pressure, a turnover, and a 3-on-2 rush.

2:40 - Tyler Johnson is a bit slow on the backcheck for USA and it leads to a Luke Adam goal.  Jordan Caron gets the lone assist.

7:55 - Team USA has been very sloppy in their own end, and that will have to change soon or Canada is going to put a couple more goals on the board and make this really tough for USA.

10:08 - Johnson tries to redeem himself as he beats 2 Canadian defenders to the puck for a partial breakaway, but he loses an edge and goes hard into the boards instead.

13:54 - Chris Kreider skates into the zoneand rips a wrist shot into the far top corner. Assists to Palmieri and Jenks. 1-1

14:32 - Ryan Bourque fights off 2 Canadian forwards in front of the USA bench, gets the puck to Jordan Schroeder who comes in 2-on-1 and puts another wrist shot past Allen.  Bourque and Donovan get the assists.  2-1 USA

16:03 - Canada survives a rough stretch, then takes advantage of more poor backchecking by USA and Greg Nemisz puts the puck behind Lee for the tie.  Assists to Kadri and Hall.

19:21 - Alex Pietrangelo hits Jeremy Morin from behind in response to John Carlson's clean hit on Hall.  That means the 2nd power play for Team USA and more importantly a 10 minute misconduct for Pietrangelo, one of their top defensemen.  Team Canada is already shorthanded on the blueline since Travis Hamonic is out with a separated shoulder.

First Intermission - Neither team can be happy with the way they played for the first 20 minutes, so I guess it's fitting that we're tied heading to the second period.  Team USA will have 1:21 remaining on their power play when the period begins and Pietrangelo will have 11:21 left in the box.  Kreider and Bourque both had strong periods for USA, while Stepan seemed to start slow again.

Second Period
1:03 - John Carlson rips a slapshot from the point low to Allen's right for a power play goal.  Palmieri did a nice job with the screen, not allowing Allen to see the puck.  Assists to Kristo and McRae.

3:56 - A seemingly harmless shot hits Lee, pops up into the air, then falls into the net.  Hall gets credit, with the assist to Adam.  Jack Campbell comes off the bench to replace Lee.

11:55 - The sides traded penalty kills and Campbell has looked very strong since coming on in relief.  Pietrangelo is back from his misconduct for Canada.

16:32 - USA has been having a lot of trouble clearing their zone again.  They seem to go through stretches during every period where they just can't get the puck out of their defensive zone.

17:46 - On successive shifts Ryan Bourque goes down to a knee to block a slapshot while looking the shooter in the eye, then takes a huge hit along the board in the offensive zone to make a pass setting up a scoring chance.

Second Intermission - Team USA should consider themselves lucky to get out of that period still tied.  Canada had the better of the play for the good part of the last 15 minutes, as Team USA couldn't clear the puck on a few occasions.  Jack Campbell must have ice water running through his veins because he's been stellar since coming in for a shaky Mike Lee.

Third Period
4:12 - Stepan feeds D'Amigo on a 2-on-1 rush and Jerry D'Amigo does the rest.

6:23 - D'Amigo flips the puck in, but Allen bobbles it and Stepan is there to pick up the loose puck.  He dekes to his backhand and buries it for a 5-3 USA lead.  Allen has now given way to Martin Jones in the Canadian net.

8:35 - Team USA is buzzing now...clearing their zone, forcing Canadian turnovers, and dictating play.

14:45 - Campbell gives the puck away behind his own net, but recovers to make a nice save and maintain the 2 goal lead.

17:11 - Jordan Eberle cashes in on the power play after Palmieri is sent off for charging as he was pushed by Ellis.  Assists to Hall and Pietrangelo.

18:25 - Eberle scores again to tie the game after Team USA couldn't clear the zone for a good minute and a half.  Assists to Kadri and Ellis.

20:00 - Tied at 5...going to overtime.

0:00 - OT is 4-on-4 and teams need to make the longer change, like the 2nd period.  Sudden death period...shootout if tied.

1:27 - Bourque finds his way into the slot and lets go a wrister that Jones stops.

4:31 - John Carlson skates the puck all the way to the top of the circle on a 3-on-1 rush and fires a wrist shot past Jones low short side.  John Ramage gets the assist.  USA upsets Canada for the Gold Medal!!

Postgame notes: Derek Stepan is named player of the game for USA.  Top 3 players of the tournament for USA: Tyler Johnson, Derek Stepan, and Jerry D'Amigo.  Derek Stepan finished as the tournament leader with 14 points (4g, 10a).  Jack Campbell deserved consideration for player of the game honors.  He was lights out from the second he replaced Mike Lee, and this game probably doesn't make it to OT if not for his stellar play.

Rangers prospects: All 3 Rangers prospects played major roles in USA's gold medal winning performance tonight...

Derek Stepan seems to have a knack for turning it on in the third period.  He was almost invisible offensively for 2 periods tonight and then picked up a goal and an assist in the third.  For the tournament, 6 of his 14 points came in third periods.

Chris Kreider had an all around great game,creating opportunities with his speed as always.  He was active physically and did a good job on the other side of the puck tonight to go along with his goal.  He and Stepan were the forwards on the ice for the game-winner.

Ryan Bourque was one of the best USA players on the ice for the second game in a row.  He was buzzing on the forecheck, and used a great individual effort to set up Schroeder's first period goal.  He gave his all on every shift and it showed.

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