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Canada's Toughest Test comes Tonight

Special Thanks to Thayne Hallyburton

What was once expected to be one of the biggest games of the 2012 World Junior hockey championship has now become somewhat of an after-thought.
Tonight’s contest between Team Canada and Team U.S.A was billed pre-tournament as the game to see in Edmonton. Both teams were expected to be 3-0 headed into it, and the winner was supposed to get a bye.
What was supposed to be and what has occurred are two very different things.
The tournament for the Canadian side thus far has gone off as planned. They handily beat all of their opponents in all three contests headed into the New Year’s Eve match against the Americans. For team U.S.A. the tournament has been a nightmare. Hot goaltending, terrible turnovers and lackluster efforts have plagued this team from the outset.
We first got a glimpse at the American’s vulnerability after a first period that saw many turnovers and a close 3-2 score against a sub-par opponent in Denmark.  They did go on to blow Denmark out by a score of 11-3 but we saw a glimpse of what was to come.  The Americans then ran into two hot goalies in their next two games. Finland’s Sami Aittokallio(Colorado Avalanche) and the Czech Republic’s Petr Mrazek(Detroit Red Wings) were simply phenomenal in their games against the Americans. The U.S. outshot, out-chanced and out-played the Finns and Czech’s but lost both games by scores of 4-1 and 5-2 respectively.
Now, we fast-forward to tonight where two teams who are going in opposite directions will clash in what has become hockey’s hottest international rivalry.  The Americans are headed to the relegation round and the Canadians are off to the semi-finals no matter the outcome tonight.
Pride and bragging rights are what are on the line tonight; but these are 17, 18 and 19 year old kids and that is more than enough to get them fired up to play.
For the U.S. this is their gold medal and for the Canadians this is a momentum and tune up game before heading into the medal round.
For Canada to be successful they will need a good game from starting goalie, Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey Devils) of the Plymouth Whalers, and will need to get their cycle game going down low to take advantage of the Americans lack of mobility on the back end.
For the Americans to be successful they will need to use their team speed. We heard a lot about it coming into this tournament. It was said that this was the fastest American team ever assembled. What we have seen thus far is just spurts of this speed. It is no doubt there, but they don’t use it enough. The passes are too long and are cross ice. To create team speed the passes need to be shorter and the Americans should focus more on playing North-South hockey rather than this East-West style of play that we have seen through the first three games of the tournament.
My Prediction is a 5-1 Canadian win. The Canucks have been too big, too strong, too organized and too skilled for every team in this pool and I think they will show that against the American side as well.
Key Players Canada: Mark stone, Ryan Strome, Brendan Gallagher, Scott Harrington, Brandon Gormley
Key Players USA: Charlie Coyle, Brandon Saad, Jarred Tinordi, JT Miller, Emerson Etem
Both Canada and the US had issues with the Flu bug as U.S.A.’s Charlie Coyle played only two shifts in their loss against the Czech Republic yesterday and Michael Bournival of Team Canada missed Thursday night’s win over Team Denmark. Both will be in the lineup tonight.
USA: Derek Forbort (concussion)
Canada: Devante Smith-Pelly (broken big toe)

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