Despite an upsetting loss to the tournament favorite Canada, Team USA had a number of productive individual performances, which will hopefully lead to a medal run at this year’s WJC. And a lot of those great performances, were performed by some of College Hockey’s best players.
Notable College Player Performances
Goaltender Thatcher Demko, Boston College, was stellar on the back-end for the Americans, standing strong against a number of great chances from the Canadians, both off the rush and off of the cycle down low. Demko made 38 saves on 41 shots, and was the U.S Player of the Game.
Dylan Larkin, Michigan, continued his fantastic scoring pace at this World Junior. Scoring two more goals for the Americans, and big goals. Both gave the U.S. some late life and both came under the 3 minute mark of the 3rd period. Larkin’s two goals were his 4th and 5th of the tournament, and now gives him 7 points through the conclusion of the preliminary round, and is 2nd in tournament scoring.
Jack Eichel, Boston University, had a tough road today, with Canada defenseman Darnell Nurse following him around all over the ice, and finishing every check he had the opportunity to finish. Despite being covered thoroughly throughout the game, Eichel found a way to get on the score sheet with an assist on the American’s 1st goal.
JT Compher, University of Michigan, was right in the middle of a lot of the scoring chances for the Red-White-and-Blue. Skating very well, and with a quick first step, Compher produced some quick shots down low and stuck out as one of the Americans who seemed comfortable possessing the puck in the offensive zone against some of the powerful Canadian defenseman.
Other notable College players were defenseman Will Butcher, University of Denver, and Hudson Fasching, University of Minnesota. Both Butcher and Fasching skated very well, and were a big reasons why the U.S had some very smooth and quick transition rushes throughout the game.
The first period of the New Years Eve Showdown between hockey powers, USA and Canada, was highly paced and saw great transition work from both sides. Defenseman from both teams were really digging in and fighting to get up ice and join the rush for scoring opportunities. The Americans had some decent offensive zone time during the beginning portion of the 1st, while the Canadians seemed to get better as the period progressed, and established a bit pressure of their own in the latter minutes. Demko stopped all 17 shots he faced in the 1st period. However overall, the period was high-octane hockey that produced a constant seesaw battle with big hits and scoring chances off the rush, that ultimately ended in a scoreless tie.
The 2nd period continued with a fair share of transition play during the first half of the period, with Canada carrying the bulk of the play. Canada got on the board first with Max Domi following his own shot, with Sam Reinhart sliding a pass over to Domi for a tap in to give Canada the 1-0 lead. Shortly after Domi’s goal, Josh Morrisey blasted home a one timer from the point on a powerplay that beat Demko on the short side. Demko kept USA close on the other end during the first section of the period, making another ten saves during the 2nd section of play.
USA started to tilt the ice back in it’s favor during the 2nd half of the period. Canada’s Antony Duclair took a tripping penalty with around eight minutes remaining the period. On the ensuing powerplay, College Hockey’s top player Jack Eichel, beat his man at the blueline, and carried the puck into the slot. He then dished one over to linemate Sonny Milano down low, who slid it through the crease to defenseman Anthony DeAngelo to buried it home to bring the U.S back within one. USA carried the play for the remainder of the period, forcing Canada’s Eric Comrie to make some in-close saves. The period ended with Canada owning a 2-1 lead.
The 3rd period saw 5 goals, and all in the 2nd half of the period. Halfway through 3rd, Connor McDavid broke down the left-wing with a serious burst of speed, and fired a shot to the net that was deflected up in the air off of Demko, as it came down, Canada captain Curtis Lazar came crashing in and the puck hit off of Lazar and found its way over the line. Giving Canada a 3-1 lead.
Canada dominating the 3rd in most facets, but made a mistake late in the 3rd, giving the U.S. some hope. Canada turned the puck over in their own zone during a breakout. Milano picked up the puck along the boards, sliding it over to Fasching who skated through the slot, before sliding it over to Dylan Larkin, who delivered the puck into the wide open net from the back door. 3-2 with 2:34 left in the 3rd. USA pulled their goalie following the late 2nd goal, and got some great scoring chances in the last minute and a half of the game. But Canada’s Reinhart stole a puck and snagged his 2nd of the game, an empty netter, making it 4-2 with under a minute to play. BU it wasn’t over, on the ensuing faceoff, Larkin got a pass and busted down the right side wall and let a rising wrist go that beat Comrie on the short side for his 2nd of the game, to make it a 4-3 game with 42 seconds to play. But USA couldn’t quite month the come back, with Max Domi getting another empty netter, his 2nd of the game, for Canada off a great bank past from Reinhart. Ending the game in favor of Canada, with a score of 5-3.
Bill is a 2012 Graduate of Franklin Pierce University, where he played D3 NCAA Ice-Hockey. He covers Atlantic Hockey and D3 for the USCHO. He covers College hockey for THW.