Canada holds off United States, wins group at WJC

By Mike G. Morreale – Staff Writer

MONTREALMax Domi not only helped the Canadian National Junior Team continue its preliminary-round mastery of the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship, but he ended his night with an entire arena chanting his name.

Domi (Arizona Coyotes), who was named Canada’s player of the game, scored two goals to spark a relentless offensive attack in a 5-3 victory against its North American rival at Bell Centre on Wednesday. Canada outshot the United States 43-28.

Domi scored the first goal of the game 7:07 into the second period and the last one into an empty net with 4.7 seconds remaining before the Bell Centre crowd began chants of “Domi, Domi” in the very city where his father was public enemy No. 1 for 10-plus seasons as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

When asked what he thought might have been going through his father’s mind hearing the chants, the young Domi smiled.

“That’s a good question, I’ll have to ask him that,” Domi said. “These fans were unbelievable. We wouldn’t have gotten four [preliminary-round] wins without them, so it’s a shout out to those Canadiens’ fans for sure. They’re a first-class group. It was fun to be a part of that atmosphere.”

Domi and linemate Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) accounted for three goals, five points and a plus-5 rating. Canada has beaten the United States in each of their past six preliminary-round matches. It leads the all-time series against the United States with 34 wins in 44 matches; there have been three ties.

“The [United States] came out flying,” Canada coach Benoit Groulx said. “They got the early odd-man rush with [Jack] Eichel alone in the slot to open the game and got momentum out of that. They had chances and possession in our zone. We took a few shifts to figure out what we needed to do and we got some rushes and puck possession time in their zone that gave us confidence. That kind of shifted momentum for us.”

Reinhart was dominant in the faceoff circle, winning 18 of 23 draws (78 percent) to help Canada maintain puck possession throughout.

“They came out firing with a lot of speed and I thought we handled it well and fired back in the second period,” Reinhart said. “We took it too them a little more.”

The victory by Canada (4-0-0-0, 12 points) secured the No. 1 seed in Group A and a date against Denmark, the No. 4 seed from Group B, in the quarterfinal round at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Friday (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). The United States (2-1-0-1, eight points) is seeded No. 2 in Group A and will play Russia, the No. 3 seed from Group B, at Bell Centre on Friday (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). Russia eliminated the United States in the identical round at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden.

Also scoring for Canada were forwards Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators) and Reinhart and defenseman Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets). Forward Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) scored two late goals for the United States; defenseman Anthony DeAngelo (Tampa Bay Lightning) had the other.

Canada goaltender Eric Comrie (Winnipeg Jets) made 25 saves in his second start of the tournament. U.S. goalie Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks), who was making his third start, made 38 saves.

“I thought he was very solid, ready for the game right from the start,” Groulx said of Comrie. Groulx gave no indication whether Comrie or Zachary Fucale would be his goalie of choice against Denmark.

Demko was sharp throughout, particularly in the first period when he made 17 saves.

“I don’t want us losing confidence or being down on ourselves,” he said. “We didn’t play a good game so there’s definitely things we can take away, but in no way does this define us for this tournament. It’s just one game and we’re going to move forward from here.”

Larkin pulled the United States within 3-2 by scoring with 2:34 left in the third before Reinhart hit the empty net with 54 seconds to play, giving Canada a 4-2 lead. Larkin scored his second of the game off a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Comrie high on the short side with 42 seconds left, but Domi closed out the scoring off a picturesque bank pass by Reinhart off the boards through the neutral zone.

“Canada has unbelievable depth and they were well-prepared,” U.S. coach Mark Osiecki said. “We had a good first 10 minutes and really tried to push the pace, tried to play to our strength. They didn’t back down and you wouldn’t expect it any other way, so hats off to their group.

“The one thing about our group is the resilient part of it in terms of the ebbs and flows of that game and being able to stay with it and having a good push back.”

The game featured the potential top-two picks in the 2015 NHL Draft in Connor McDavid of Canada and Jack Eichel of the United States. McDavid and Eichel didn’t disappoint; each was credited with one assist. Canada defensive pair Shea Theodore (Anaheim Ducks) and Darnell Nurse (Edmonton Oilers) did a great job whenever Eichel and linemates Alex Tuch (Minnesota Wild) and Tyler Motte (Chicago Blackhawks) took the ice, limiting the big goal-scorer to few high-caliber chances.

“We didn’t do enough to get the win so we’ll learn from it and get better,” Eichel said. “I think I can get better too. They played physical and if that’s the way they’re going to play, you have to battle through it.”

Lazar gave Canada a 3-1 edge 10:01 into the third when the puck deflected off his body and over the goal line. McDavid, the projected No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft, made the play happen when he skated hard down left wing before sending a high shot that Demko could not control. Lazar was right there for the loose puck.

The United States pulled within 2-1 when DeAngelo took a pass low in the right circle from Sonny Milano (Columbus Blue Jackets) and whipped a shot past a fallen Comrie at 13:12 of the second period. The power-play goal was set up by Eichel, who surveyed the situation at the center point before feeding Milano at the left post.

That goal came after Domi and Morrissey scored earlier in the second to put Canada ahead. Domi sent the Bell Centre crowd into a frenzy when he converted a backhand pass from Reinhart from the bottom of the left circle past Demko at 7:07. Morrissey scored his first of the tournament with a power-play blast from the top of the right circle that beat Demko just inside the right post at 10:11. It was Canada’s tournament-best sixth goal in 12 power-play attempts.

There was no feeling-out process for either side in the first period, when each goaltender was exceptional. The biggest hit came midway through the period when Morrissey drilled Milano along the right-wing boards, sending him off his skates and separating him from the puck.

Morrissey was on the receiving end of a big hit early in the third when Tuch knocked him over just inside the U.S. blue line.

In addition to the big hits, Domi was in the face of most of the Americans whenever he was given the chance, especially Eichel. It was reminiscent of the way his dad played during his heyday with the Maple Leafs.

“[Eichel’s] a very good hockey player and you have to play hard against him,” Domi said. “He’s a big part of their team. You’re just trying to compete against him and we did that off that. It worked out pretty good.”

Eichel barely missed an opportunity 29 seconds into the game when he and Tuch broke in off a rush on transition. Eichel got the puck on his forehand while cruising down the slot and ripped a shot that was stopped by Comrie.

Source NHL