LAUSANNE — It was a quintessential hockey battle between rivals Canada and the United States with high drama, twists and turns and a wicked finish Tuesday afternoon inside Vaudoise Arena.
With time winding down in the third period and the Canadians trailing 2-1, the Americans took a tripping penalty which made for a frantic final two minutes.
A capacity crowd roared as the Canadians buzzed around the United States net with the goalie pulled and an extra attacker on the ice. But despite pinning the Americans in their own zone and firing the puck relentlessly, the Canadians couldn’t find the tying goal in the final seconds of the game.
As the clock hit zeroes the Americans blasted out of their bench and piled onto each other celebrating their 2-1 victory. The Canadians sat in their bench looking on.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the outcome of today’s game but extremely happy with our effort. I thought the guys left it all out on the ice and it was something we wanted to do,” said Team Canada head coach, Gordie Dwyer.
“We pride ourselves on being Canadian and giving it our all until the end.”
The Canadians trailed 2-0 heading into the third period but mounted a serious charge in the final frame. They cut the American lead in half early as Nate Danielson got Canada on the board. His goal was assisted by captain Matthew Savoie and alternate captain Adam Fantilli.
For most of the third period the Canadians brought wave after wave of offensive attacks at the Americans but just couldn’t find the tying goal.
Despite the loss, Fantilli said he was proud of how the team fought until the end.
“No matter what I’ll be proud of these guys. We went to war together. These 17 guys are like my brothers. It’s the Canadian way,” he said.
Questionable penalty-shot call
The Canadians and Americans started the game zipping around the ice, throwing their weight around at each other, trying to establish a physical advantage early.
It was the Americans who had the best scoring chance in the first period. A massive scramble in front of the net left a United States shooter wide open in front of left side of the net — Canadian goalie Vincent Filion sprawled across the crease, just getting his stick out and swatting away the puck. The sensational save midway through the period kept the game scoreless after the first period.
The United States scored their two goals two minutes apart in the second period. Its opening goal of the game was scored on a questionable penalty-shot call that left the Canadian coaching staff and many in the crowd baffled.
American Frank Nazar got caught up with a Canadian out front of the left of Canada’s net but was losing possession of the puck. There was some confusion over the initial call as it looked to be a hooking violation. However, Nazar was awarded the penalty shot.
Nazar made a scintillating move, calmly sliding the puck from his forward to the backhand, dropping Filion, and backhanding it into the net.
Dwyer called the referee over before the shot to get an explanation on the call.
“We disagreed on the call. But the call was made, and we move forward from there. As a coach, things happen during the game that you have to adjust from and I thought our team rebounded well,” Dwyer said.
Two minutes after the penalty-shot call the Americans struck again, this time on a power play. Isaac Howard ripped a low shot into the bottom right side of the net to give the United States a 2-0 lead. It was Howard’s seventh goal at the Youth Olympics.
The Canadian Way
After a lengthy post-game chat with his team after the loss, Dwyer met with media.
“We talked about what it was to be Canadian, our core values and what it means to wear the Maple Leaf,” he said.
Dwyer says he’s proud of the way his team battled adversity throughout the game.
“You can’t say enough about these kids,” Dwyer said.
“They’re great young hockey players and great young men. We’ve talked about our core values and what it means to play for Team Canada. This is their first experience and I think they’ve done themselves proud and their country proud.”
Canada now plays in the bronze-medal game on Wednesday, and will likely square off against Finland, who is currently losing 8-1 to Russia in the other semifinal matchup.
Dwyer says this is just the beginning for these young men in their international hockey careers and that they will give their best effort to bring home a medal for Canada.
“It’s their first experience at a young age but what a wonderful experience this is. It’s character-building,” he said.
“We still want to win a medal and the guys would be proud of that.”