Edmonton, AB - Just as they've done throughout the tournament, Canada dismantled its opponent.
But only through 20 minutes.
In a game called meaningless by many, the bitter on-ice temperament was as prevalent as always in a 3-2 Canadian win over the United States.
The US' loss to the Czech Republic meant that the visiting side was sent to the relegation round, while Canada had automatically advanced to the semis without having to overcome the disappointed, but driven, American squad in an intense New Year's Eve battle.
Nothing was on the line but national pride; and, sometimes, that brings out the best between nations brought up with winning inside-the-rink attitudes. On this night, again, and as they have been throughout the 2012 World Junior Championship, Canada was the better team.
16,000-plus cheered them on, lungs burning as the US' Jarred Tinordi picked up an undisciplined roughing minor 5:10 into the game. Wasting little time in rising the masses, Jonathan Huberdeau located Mark Stone in the slot, who scored his tournament-leading seventh 29 seconds into the power-play.
"It was a good start, but we know we have to play a full 60 in the semis," said the goal-scorer. "We talk about [having a good start] a lot. So far, so good. Nothing changes going ahead. We want to make sure that we're mentally prepared to start the game quickly.
"The coaches are telling me where to go to get the puck, and it's obviously working," he added about his totals. "I'm going to keep getting to those spots and Huberdeau, (Ryan) Strome, are going to keep getting me the puck."
"They prepare really well and they're going to come out and play their best hockey right away," added US goalie Jack Campbell. "Everyone knows that about Canada. Their coach made a great game plan and everyone executed."
It was as loud as it was during the Oilers' miraculous post-season run in 2006, and it was all that was needed for Team Canada to send the hometown crowd home with a smile and gold medal hopes.
But, in a blink, it was 2-0. Stone collected his second point, working the Americans down low with outstanding individual labour, pawing aside oncoming checkers and centering the puck to Jaden Schwartz alone in the slot.
Upstairs it went. The horn sounded, those 16,000-plus rose once more and the rout was on. For a moment.
With the crowd roaring, serenading US netminder Jack Campbell with a decibel-breaking jeer, Brett Connolly raced down the wing; no one else in sight but the goalie and a slim opening on his blocker side, which was picked with ease as the red and white established a commanding three-goal lead.
"We're happy with the win," Schwartz said. "It was a good game; it was tight-checking and it was good because we're going to learn from it. We're excited with the win, and we're excited for another round."
What they'll learn is the need to put teams away. Still up 3-0 in the third, the US stormed back as Charlie Coyle and Jason Zucker each tallied to make it a one-goal game, setting the stage to a compelling conclusion.
The Americans pushed, but the Canadians didn't relent in the game's waning moments to secure the win.
"It's good to go through some adversity like that, because we're probably going to face a little down the road," Stone explained. "It wasn't that tough [to remain focused]. We all had the right mindset in this locker room and we're taking it game-by-game. The US was our next one and we battled pretty hard."
"We're going to learn from it," Schwartz added. "At the time we weren't happy that they were taking it to us, but give the US credit, they came at us hard. It's a learning curve and it's going to help us.
"We had to relax a little bit and get back to our game plan. They were coming hard and we needed to calm down a little bit, start making plays and start making smart plays; chipping pucks deep and keeping it down there."
Canada will complete the tournament in Calgary, where and equally as boisterous, red and white-clad crowd will welcome them Tuesday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.