Two years after their last World Championship meeting, Teams U.S.A. and Canada finally took the ice to face off in a gold medal rematch at the 2021 World Para Ice Hockey Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. Both teams were ready to get back to international competition after the pandemic cancelled the competition in 2020.
The first fifteen minutes started off in typical USA vs Canada fashion - physical play. Canada had its first chance on a turnover by USA’s David Eustace, but the shot was easily redirected by veteran goaltender Steve Cash. Brody Royal returned the scare to team Canada with a quick shot, but Dominic Laroque was able to handle the quick shot. USA’s Josh Pauls hunted down a streaking Billy Bridges on a breakaway and knocked him off the puck. Bridges saw another great opportunity for a score, but Cash tracked the slot shot and handled it well. The last minute of the period saw a flurry of action in front of Laroque, but Team USA couldn’t capitalize.
The second period start was delaying several minutes while the arena crew addressed an issue with the ice, but once the puck dropped, the action began immediately. Less than a minute in, Jack Wallace was called for a penalty and Canada went on the man advantage. U.S.A. kept Canada tied up until Liam Hickey received a pass and got a shot on net. Fortunately Steve Cash was ready and smothered the puck. With the penalty winding down, Canada’s James Dunn tapped the puck past Cash for the first goal of the game.
The goal gave Canada some confidence as the period continued. Team U.S.A. seemed to need a little longer to shake the international competition cobwebs off, and Canada kept the pressure on. U.S.A.’s Ralph DeQuebec took a penalty on a hard hit on Tyler McGregor and put Canada on the power play once again. McGregor channeled his indignation, skated the puck through three U.S.A. defenders and lifted the puck over Cash making the game 2-0 Canada.
U.S.A. got the puck in close to Laroque, but Canada’s D clogged the slot enough to stop any scoring chance from getting through. Declan Farmer, one of Team U.S.A.’s best offensive threats, had a near goal on a shot taken mid-hooking penalty. U.S.A. headed on the power play at the end of the second period in need of some momentum. A usually robust and productive U.S.A. power play yielded nothing, and the teams headed into the intermission with a score of 2-0.
Less than a minute into the third period, forward Brody Roybal received a beautiful pass from Captain Josh Pauls and streaked up the slot to shoot the puck past Dominic Laroque to cut the Canadian league in half.
U.S.A. lost some of that scoring momentum with a penalty call on Rico Roman for holding. Canada returned to the power play, which had been perfect through the game thus far. Canada kept pressure on Cash in net, but the two minutes expired with no harm done.
Captain Josh Pauls led a charge of Team U.S.A. offense with Roybal and Farmer joining in the pressure on Laroque. As the time ticked down, the U.S.A. doubled down on their attack, and Canada committed a penalty to stop Josh Misiewicz in the slot giving U.S.A. the gift of a power play. Misiewicz had two golden opportunities right in front of the net, but couldn’t corral the puck either time and Laroque was able to stop play and keep his team ahead.
With less than a minute to go, U.S.A. pulled the goalie and Canada was able to tie up the puck along the boards. The final faceoff with :05 seconds remaining was won by U.S.A. but they couldn’t convert the last second possession into a score and Canada earned a revenge win 2-1 in the preliminary round.
- Pandemic hangover is real - While several European teams have been able to play friendlies to prepare for Worlds, neither U.S.A. nor Canada were able to truly create that competition experience until today, and it showed on the ice. Canada was able to shake the rust off more quickly. The Team U.S.A. we thought we’d see showed up in the third but will need to come out of the gate hot in their next matches.
- Big players need to play big - When you are playing a game against another top team, your big players need to play big. Farmer and Roybal were too quiet the first two periods. It is always more difficult to dig out of a deficit, and Team U.S.A. ran out of time.
- Small things done with great care can change the game - cleaning up the passing game, eliminating a few turnovers, and controlling the puck inside the blue line will reap dividends for Team U.S.A. going forward.
Team U.S.A. faces home team Czech Republic (who dropped their opening game to Korea) tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM CST. You can follow the action on the Olympic channel or on the World Para Ice Hockey page on Facebook.