Goals by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Strome put Canada up 2-0 early, but it was a sensational, 36-save performance by Malcolm Subban that was the real story as Team Canada edged the United States by a 2-1 score Sunday morning.
Nugent-Hopkins got Canada on the board at 7:13, taking a nifty feed from Jonathan Huberdeau in the slot before rifling a laser beam past American netminder John Gibson.
In three games, RNH has now tallied three goals and a tournament-leading eight points.
Not to be outdone by his counterpart, Gibson was equally as brilliant. As Nugent-Hopkins’ goal was still being announced, Canada burst up ice on a clearcut 3-on-1. Led by Ryan Murphy, who elected to shoot, Gibson came up with a stunning blocker save.
Subban, Canada’s Player of the Game, replied moments later with a huge save of his own by stoning John Gaudreau on a breakaway.
With 5:16 to play in the period, Brett Ritchie wheeled around the American net and directed a centering pass into the crease area where a lurking Strome pounced at the doorstep. Strome, who sits second in tournament scoring behind Nugent-Hopkins with six points in three games, now leads the World Junior Championship with four goals.
Gibson shone once more late in the period as he came up big, denying Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele by snaring the 19-year-old’s quick, low slot one-time attempt.
A high-sticking double-minor to Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart put the Americans on an extended power-play with 13:08 to play in the second. Subban, as he did all night, played hero; in all, he made eight saves to preserve his team’s 2-0 lead.
An unlucky delay of game penalty to Strome midway through the third put the US back on the man-advantage. A partial 4-on-2 rush spurred by a failed shorthanded attempt at the other end by Ty Rattie provided a glorious scoring chance for Jacob Trouba and the Americans. This time, despite the strong play of Subban, they made no mistake. Trouba’s initial shot was blocked, but he stayed with it and capitalized on the rebound once Subban had committed, opening up a lane between the wickets.
Separate minor penalties to Trouba, Jake McCabe, Tyler Biggs, Ryan Hartman and Vince Trochek quelled the Americans’ comeback bid, however. And while an undisciplined, late-game infraction to Nugent-Hopkins gave the US one last gasp, Subban was there to seal the deal.
NEXT UP: Team Canada’s road to gold doesn’t get any easier Monday as they will face the host Russians at 7:00AM MT. The result of that game will determine who finishes atop Group B, earning a bye to the semi-finals; Oil Kings David Musil (Czech Republic) and Edgards Kulda go head-to-head with each other Sunday morning (7:00AM MT).
— Ryan Dittrick, Edmonton Oil Kings | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick