As if the Federal Aviation Administration didn’t have enough on its plate these days, last night nearly two dozen American jets collided with a fleet of Air Canada 747s in Canadian air space. No wait, those were American teenagers wearing Red, White, and Blur hockey sweaters on an ice sheet in Saskatoon, and skating in a blur. It wasn’t the evening’s intake of spirits that made the high-def TV screen seem a blur, it was the speed of the American and Canadian kids in skates. If you were New Years Eve reveling out on the town with friends and didn’t think to DVR last night’s U.S.-Canada World Juniors showdown, I hope the midnight face-sucking was supreme, because you missed an instant classic. Canada prevailed 5-4, in a shootout, overcoming a 4-2 third period lead by the Yanks, and no one who watched it thought of Dick Clark or Times Square once.
- “If these two teams meet up in the gold medal game I think the Saskatoon EMTs better bring about 15,000 defibrillators with them,” USA Hockey in-game blogged about the thriller.
- The Americans this morning have no reason to hang their heads after their showing last night. In their last 35 World Junior games, Canada has a record of 34-1. Thirty four and one. And this year’s Canadian entry at the WJC is of a caliber of the previous five who’ve all claimed gold.
- For the first 50 minutes last night the Americans silenced a packed-to-the-rafters Sask Place (I’m not calling it Credit Union Arena or whatever its corporate calling card is these days) by dramatically outskating, out-chancing, and generally outplaying their heavy favorite hosts. It was easily the most impressive and inspiring performance I’ve seen by an American national team in at least the last 10 years.
- Prior to last night, I’d held out a sliver of hope that Cam Fowler could edge out his juniors teammate Taylor Hall for the first overall pick in next June’s Entry Draft. That ain’t happening, and it’s no fault of Fowler’s. Hall is a blur of a force. Think Jonathon Tavares but about thirty times the skater. The Americans last night did a wonderful job of putting the body on him, but he still made life a hair-greying affair for them with about a half dozen lethal scoring opportunities, all of which he seemed to create on his own.
- The Americans scored two shorthanded tallies in last night’s second period. And they nearly had a third. They were that fast to the puck, that counter-attack explosive.
- Going into the tourney, I’d suggested that John Carlson and Cam Fowler might be paired together in an American super pairing, Fowler offering a left shot to Carlson’s righty. Head Coach Dean Blais has opted to keep them separated, but both are performing at the elite level forecasted.
- That was a 17-year-old Jack Campbell in net for our guys last night. He doesn’t turn 18 until January 9, meaning he could start two more World Junior tourneys for the Americans. He’s got a first-rounder look to him all right, although his shootout performance last night was one he’d like to do over.
- On a roster laden with elite skaters, three of the most impressive for the Americans are Jerry D’Amigo (how often does a skater from RPI represent the U.S. in this tourney?), Boston College frosh Chris Kreider (19th overall to the Rangers last summer), and Fighting Sioux first-yearer Danny Kristo (Montreal’s 2008 second-rounder).
- One of the most pleasant aspects to this instant classic affair last night was that the quality of officiating seemed to match the quality of the hockey. How often can we say that? That’s no small feat given the New Years Eve environs for this intense rivalry, and some blind-squirrel bone-headedness by IIHF zebras earlier this week in some of the Americans’ games. The guys in stripes last night were on top of things, from start to finish, and the game had such a gorgeous giddy-up flow, and you have to credit the zebras for remaining on the margins of the action and helping foster that.
Speaking of lucky Canucks, Comcast Sportsnet’s Lisa Hillary will be seated in Fenway Park this afternoon, as a hockey fan, and sharing with us sights and sounds of the spectacle via text messages. We’ll be compiling them and gathering our own observations from the high definition broadcast on NBC. Don’t forget that the American Olympic roster will be announced on the broadcast at the conclusion of today’s game. Happy New Year, OFB readers.
Really good game by USA! Carlson looked real good. This was the first time that I have seen Della Rova play. But, boy do I still hate the shootout.