Team Canada opened the 2020 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Hockey Championship from Czech Republic on Boxing Day with an exceptionally entertaining Group B matchup against Team USA.
Canada – which had not beaten USA in preliminary play or the medal round since New Year’s Eve of 2015 – took it to the Americans Thursday afternoon, beating the only other North American-based team 6-4, in a back-and-forth matchup.
The annual spectacle began with the Americans jumping out to a 2-0 lead on back-to-back power play goals. Shane Pinto and Arthur Kaliyev scored for the States in the first period, before Canada responded with three-straight goals in the middle stanza.
Connor McMichael opened the scoring for Canada 3:31 into the second period, before Barrett Hayton and Nolan Foote put up power play strikes before the frame came to an end. The United States thought they had tied the game back up 3-3 in the dying seconds of the period, however, upon further review, USA’s potential third power play goal of the game came after the final horn of the second period occurred.
After falling behind 6-0 in the shot department early, Canada battled back, retaking the lead, before going on a 13-2 run, bringing their total up to 24-18 through 40 minutes of play. The game ended in a 32-all tie in shots, with a strong push by the Americans in the third period, heavily outshooting Canada 14-8.
Up 3-2 heading into the final period of the game, Team Canada captain Hayton found his second goal of the game – his second on the man advantage, and Canada’s third of the game with 9:13 to play. Sitting comfortably ahead, the Canadians let their game slide, allowing the United States back into the contest.
Just two minutes after Hayton’s goal, Nick Robertson brought the States to within one goal of the Canadians, before Shane Pinto knotted it up with the Americans’ third power play goal of the game.
But before fans of Team USA could even sit back down, Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere stripped the puck off Ke’Andre Miller following the centre ice faceoff, and walked past USA netminder Spencer Knight, taking the lead back for Canada. Ty Dellandrea added an empty net marker, giving Canada a 6-4 opening day victory.
Canadian netminder Nico Daws stopped 28 of 32 shots, while Spencer Knight made 27 saves on 31 Canadian shots. With one goal and three assists, Lafreniere was named Canada’s Player of the Game. Pinto took USA’s Player of the Game with two goals and one assist.
Canada will now have a day off Friday, before next suiting up to play against Russia on Saturday at 12:00 PM central. The Canadians will then play Germany and Czech Republic on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. All games will be available to view on TSN.