It’s On Like Donkey Kong…Again

Toews Canada USA

Here we go, a rematch of last year’s IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship semi final.  It is the U.S.A. and Team Canada that will do battle for the right to play for the gold medal in this year’s tournament.

For Canada, we’re about to see if this team has any jam.  This is the biggest game to date in many of these players’ lives, not only because it is an elimination game in the biggest tournament for the Under-20 age group, but because it’s against Team Canada’s biggest rivalry right now in international hockey: Team U.S.A.

The book on this year’s team from the States is that they are a fast, big and skilled team and they have more chemistry than past U.S. teams because the corps group of this team has played together at the U18 Championships and U17 Championships.

This year’s American team, although it doesn’t have any of the big-name players from a few years ago like Jack Johnson, Phil Kessel or Erik Johnson, has just two players that haven’t been drafted, and with the way Colin Wilson has been playing in this tournament, he may challenge Canada’s Steven Stamkos for top spot in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Led by Philidelphia Flyers first round pick from last year’s NHL Entry Draft James vanRiemsdyk and New York Islanders prospect Kyle Okposo, the States breezed through the round robin portion of this tournament, going 4-0-0-0.  Team U.S.A. also had the second best goals-against in the round robin, allowing eight goals in four games.  That was second next to Canada’s five goals allowed in four games.

John Tavares

If the U.S.A. boasts one thing over Canada, it is offence.  Canada has yet to find a real offensive rhythm in this tournament and has been working more on getting pucks and guys to the net after being criticized for keeping the puck to the outside and not penetrating the middle of the ice in the offensive zone.

One thing Team Canada has to be aware of is the American skill.  The U.S.A. wasn’t the second highest scoring team in Pool B by accident.  Canada will have to maintain a physical presence and relentless defensive attack, but at the same time, stay out of the penalty box.  Canada’s penalty killing is the best in the tournament right now, but why chance it in a game that no one wearing just red and white wants to lose?

So far, through five games, some people may feel disappointed about Team Canada’s play so far at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships.  True, there is another gear that Craig Hartsburg can coax out of his team and he may find it tomorrow when two bitter rivals go head-to-head again.

It never gets old though, does it?

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