|(Photo Credit: Anna Sergeeva)
There is but one blemish on Canada's record at this year's IIHF World Championship, and it's one that the Canadians will have a chance to avenge on Sunday. With a 4-3 semifinal win over the U.S. on Saturday, Canada will face undefeated Finland – the only team to beat the Canadians – with a second-consecutive gold medal on the line.
Canada's rematch with the U.S., which pitted Buffalo Sabres teammates Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart of Canada against Jake McCabe and Hudson Fasching of Team USA, came far more difficult than the 5-1 win the Canadians earned when the two teams met to open the tournament on May 6. This time, it was a fight to the very end.
Canada appeared ready to run away with the game in the first period, building a 2-0 lead on goals from Brendan Gallagher and Brad Marchand. Reinhart earned his fourth assist of the tournament on Gallagher's goal with a pass behind the net to Boone Jenner, who swung around and took a shot that created a rebound for Gallagher to drive into the net.
The U.S. showed its resiliency in the second, however, with three-straight goals from Auston Matthews, David Warsofsky, and Tyler Motte in the first 8:25 of the period. Fasching earned the secondary assist on Warsofsky's goal, his second of tournament.
As he did so often for the Sabres this past season, O'Reilly came through to help tie the game with the Canadians on the power play prior to the second intermission. O'Reilly batted a puck out of mid air off the pad of U.S. goalie Keith Kinkaid, creating a rebound that Derrick Brassard was able to tap into an open net.
Despite an 11-4 shot advantage for the U.S. in the third, Canada held onto the win on the strength of Ryan Ellis' game-winning goal just 1:34 into the period. Canadian goalie Cam Talbot was steady throughout the final 20 minutes of a 30-save performance.
McCabe, the only Sabre without a point on Saturday, played a strong defensive game in 17:45 of ice time. He was named afterward as one of the top three U.S. players of the tournament along with Matthews and Connor Murphy.
The U.S. will fight for its second-straight bronze medal against Russia at 9:15 a.m. EST on Sunday. Russia – featuring NHL stars such as Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Pavel Datsyuk – fell to Finland 3-1 in their semifinal matchup on Saturday.
O'Reilly, Reinhart and Canada, meanwhile, will have their shot at redemption against Finland at 1:15 p.m. EST.