Canada used the home advantage to rally ahead of Team USA. Jets prospect Max Domi earned top honors for his pair of goals including the game winner to beat the United States 5-3 in the final game of Group A play at Centre Bell Wednesday night. They secured the top seed in the quarterfinals to be played in Toronto.
First place in Group A wass on the line between the United States and Canada where one could have the best advantage of making a successful run through the tournament. The Canadians have an edge over their adversaries winning all of their games in regulation while the U.S. forced a game with Finland into a shootout to gain the extra point. It becomes a match between top NHL prospect Connor McDavid and Detroit Red Wings draft pick Dylan Larkin who has scored three goals in the tournament while McDavid has scored only once.
Neither team scored in the first period as both Vancouver draftee Thatcher Demko of the United States and Winnipeg Jets drafter Eric Comrie of Canada played a stellar first period where Demko stopped 17 shots on goal that included redirects of the puck and second and third chances where he and the Team USA defense made blocked shots and stole the puck from Canada to move into their end. The U.S. saw a mirrored image of their game as Comrie stopped 13 shots while the defense fought for possession of the puck screening the opposition on scoring chances.
Both teams got back to where they left off as the time came to get one on the board. After seven minutes of even strength battles in front of each other’s nets, Canada began to show a strong swarm around creating scoring chances where a second opportunity to Domi paid off scoring his third goal of the tournament. Larkin handed Canada their first man advantage where two very close shots ended with Jets pick Josh Morrisey scoring on a one timer to go up 2-0 midway into the game.
The U.S knew that getting back into it was a serious mission and on their second chance on the power play they came together where Blue Jackets prospect Sonny Milano got the puck across to Lightning’s first rounder Anthony DeAngelo to score his first. Both Canada and the United States got into as scuffle as McDavid screened Blackhawks draft pick John Hayden to the boards where Hayden reciprocated angering the Canada line. It put the Americans on the power play where they were ultimately blocked of gaining a firing line on Comrie. They paid the price of not converting allowing Canada to roll their power play into the third.
The Canadians had a huge boost from their power play as they were shutting off the USA offense where they had to yet to notch a shot on goal though ten minutes. It only added more trouble as Canada scored a goal where McDavid’s shot hit the goaltending stick of Demko just as Senators draftee Curtis Lazar crashed into him for the puck to go in. Officials reviewed the play where it was a clean move giving Lazar.
With 2:44 left in regulation, the United States got something going where Sabres prospect Hudson Fasching and Larkin put together a beautiful play setting up Larking for a corner shot giving him four goals and making it possible to force overtime against Canada. Demko was pulled from the net giving the U.S. with six attackers where Comrie dealt with a pair of shots.
The Canadians made them for their desperate attempts getting the puck off the stick of DeAngelo for Sabres pick Sam Reinhart to get his third in the tournament. When it looked like it was all over for the Americans, Larkin took a huge shot top shelf that got into the net for his fifth. There was still time to get it done but Team Canada got hold of the puck on a turnover and scored a second empty netter giving credit to Domi for his second of the game.
Comrie earned a big win against Canada’s biggest rival stopping 25 on the night while Demko suffered his first loss this year making 38 saves. As the group play comes to an end on the eve of 2015, the qualifying teams will find out who they will face as play resumes Jan 2.