The United States utterly dominated Canada in every facet of the hockey game Thursday morning, advancing to the gold medal game of the World Junior Championship with a 5-1 win over their rivals to the north. That is a rare sentence.
From start to finish, Team USA outplayed Canada in all three zones of the ice, leaning on a relentless forecheck, strong defensive coverage, great special teams and phenomenal goaltending from John Gibson en route to the victory.
Captain Jake McCabe opened the scoring in the first period, scoring two nearly identical goals on netminder Malcolm Subban from the high slot. The Americans kept on the gas pedal through the second period, being tested by just a handful of Canadian chances. Goals from Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau and Harvard's Jim Vesey opened up the lead to 4-0 as Subban was chased from the game and replaced by backup Jordan Binnington.
Binnington held Canada in the game throughout the second half of the game, making a number of key stops. It put Canada in the position to get on the board and try to make something of the game with a shorthanded goal at the 4:03 mark of the third, trimming the American lead to 4-1.
The goal shouldn't have counted, as a quick (and, it should be noted, incorrect) whistle blew the play dead prior to the goal. Gibson and the USA defense clearly stopped playing at the sound of the whistle, giving Ty Rattie an easy shot at the back of the net. But after review, the IIHF officiating crew allowed the goal.
Canada got their legs under them afterward, generating long stretches of possession and a number of quality scoring chances for the first time in the game, but Gibson was more than up to the task. He made 15 saves in the third period alone -- 37 total in the game -- and robbed the Canadians of point-blank chances on more than one occasion.
Gaudreau scored again off a stretch pass from Vesey with 4:19 remaining in the third to seal the victory for the USA.
The Americans play for gold against the winner of the semifinal matchup between Sweden and Russia, which will come later in the day from Ufa.
Canada, meanwhile, will play for bronze against the loser of that matchup. Both games are on Saturday morning.