Credits: Mark Blinch/Reuters
UFA, RUSSIA - If that was one of Steve Spott's pranks, it wasn’t very funny.
No joking, but Canada will have to wait another year to try to end its gold medal dry spell at the world junior championship.
Canada was stuffed by an American juggernaut on Thursday, losing 5-1 to the United States in a semifinal at the 2013 world juniors.
Canada hasn’t won gold since 2009 and will have to wait to 2014 in Sweden to try again.
The Canadian players couldn’t handle an American team that simply wanted it more before a crowd of 4,791 at Ufa Arena.
Canada will meet the loser of the semifinal between Sweden and Russia in the bronze medal game on Saturday. The Americans will play the winner of that game for gold. The U.S. will be going for its second gold in four years after winning in 2010 in Saskatoon, and just their third at the world junior.
Canada, meanwhile, has no guarantee that it will win a medal for the 15th world junior in a row. Not if the players perform as they did against the Americans.
American captain Jake McCabe, a defenceman, had two goals and an assist. Canadian captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, meanwhile, not only didn’t put his team on his back but was dragged down with the rest of the group in red and white sweaters. If you’re looking for an inspiring performance, you will find it somewhere else.
McCabe, a Buffalo Sabres prospect, scored twice in the first period to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead.
John Gaudreau scored in the second period, and so did Jim Vesey, and that was it for goalie Malcolm Subban. Gaudreau, with seven goals in three games, scored again in the third period.
Subban failed to become the first goalie to play every minute for Canada at the world junior since Carey Price in 2007. Jordan Binnington came on to play in his first game since Dec. 22, when Canada faced Sweden in an exhibition.
But pinning the loss on Subban — or, if you want to be ridiculous, on having a day off while the Americans beat the Czech Republic in a quarterfinal — would be wrong.
What was surprising about the loss was Canada’s lack of focus. Jonathan Drouin, suddenly looking like an insecure 18-year-old and not a top prospect for the 2013 NHL entry draft, shot high and wide on a 2-on-1 break in the second period. Defenceman Scott Harrington, one of six returning players from last winter, took a routine pass at the American blue line and stepped out of the zone, causing all four of his teammates to be offside. Boone Jenner took a fly-by on a body-check, one that might have stopped the first American goal had he made it.
And let’s not forget the Americans aren’t a bunch of stiffs when it comes to hockey. It’s not like Canada was upset by Latvia or Germany.
The U.S., coached by former NHL defenceman Phil Housley, was excellent defensively (at least for the first 40 minutes, when the game was decided) and when the Canadians broke through, goalie John Gibson was sharp.
Canada did get credit for a goal in the third period when Ty Rattie put the puck in the net after the whistle. Not sure how that works, but that’s the International Ice Hockey Federation for you. The less sense something makes, the better, it seems.
Spott, the head coach, tricked assistant coach Don Nachbaur on Wednesday when put Nachbaur’s name on the back of the latter’s track jacket for practice. That was funny.
What happened 24 hours later was not.