LAKE PLACID — With two hockey rivals vying for the gold medal in front of a packed crowd at the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena, Sunday’s men’s hockey final between the United States and Canada made things an instant classic.
That didn’t happen as the Canadian men dominated the US by 7-2 to win their first FISU Winter World University Games medal since 2013. The win also cemented a perfect 7-0 record for Canada in the Olympics.
“We had one goal conceded, and it was gold,” said Canadian forward Matthew Struthers. “To achieve that with this group… I’ve never been this close to a group in two weeks.”
The US is losing on almost everything, and it shows right away. Canada jumped to take the lead when Austen Keating saved a shot from Justin Bergeron about seven minutes into the game.
After the US received a penalty for slashing, Canada used the men’s advantage to extend its lead. Brett Davis found the back of the net on a wrist shot from the left faceoff point.
With a 2-0 lead in the second half, Canada scored back-to-back goals from Kyle Bollers and Zachary Lavigne within two minutes of each other around the middle of the half. Bollers’ goal was scored once from Timothy Shea, while Lavigne tipped a shot from Emmett Powell.
With 11 seconds remaining in the half, Canada’s Adam McCormick scored his team’s fifth goal via a power play.
“You can’t take penalties; even if there is a coincidence, it kills us,” said US head coach Mark Taylor. “Plus, when you’re down… it’s hard to come back.”
Canada finished its scoring streak with two third period goals from Struthers and Tyler Hylland.
After the shot was deflected by US netminder Ryan Kenny and knocked his gloves off, the puck then bounced right at Struthers, who threw it into the net, deflecting it away from the US player before slowly slipping between Kenny’s legs and into the back of the net. .
“I kinda just came in,” said Struthers. “That doesn’t really matter. I am happy to get the gold medal.”
Hylland’s goal was scored by a wrist shot over Kenny’s head with seven seconds remaining in the game.
“This is unbelievable. I am speechless. I am very proud of that group.” said team Canada captain Jared Dmytriw. “The short time we had together before that tournament, how close we were. We stuck with our game plan tonight, and I’m very proud of that group.”
Outshot 47-19, the USA didn’t see many scoring opportunities, and when they did they were usually shut out by Canadian keeper Kai Edmonds, who recorded 17 saves. Kenny has 40 stops.
Team USA’s first goal was scored by Adrian College’s Sam Ruffin via a 5 on 3 penalty kill late in the second half. It was set up by Emmett Powell, who stole the puck in the neutral zone before taking the two-to-one break with Ruffin.
“Who would have thought we would score a short three against five goals? You never know,” said Taylor.
Brendan Mark scored another goal for the US on a shot from the point with five minutes left in the game. Jack Ring of SUNY Plattsburgh and Matthew Hanewall of the Milwaukee School of Engineering are credited with assistance.
Taylor said it was an honor to win silver with the US team. Cantonese native coach of Hobart University, NCAA Division III hockey program, and he selects teams only from Division III hockey programs. It was the first time in the history of the College Game that the US men’s hockey team consisted solely of Division III players. In recent years, it consisted of Division I and Division III players.
Meanwhile, Canada selects players from its top varsity teams.
“I think it shows that we can compete with the best kids from Canadian universities,” said Taylor. “I think we can do better next time. I really. This is a first time for me and first time for these guys.
“I spoke to the Canadian coach a bit, and he’s done it before,” he added. “You know, you learn every time you do something. I told myself we weren’t a little bit better, but that’s on me, so that’s how it is.
The team’s silver medalist performance marked the best finish by the US men’s hockey team in the history of the College Games.
“We came here and we wanted to do something special,” said Taylor. “We want to make some statements for our group and show that we can compete at this level. Ending in silver certainly shows that.
“For me as a North Country person, I want to make sure we get to Lake Placid,” he added. “I want to make sure that we get to this game, and I want to make sure we win it, of course, but the Canadian team also has something they want to make sure of, and that is to win it.”
While play got out of hand quickly, the crowd, which nearly filled the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena, was loud and energetic during most of the contest. Song of “USA, US” and “Let’s go, Canada” heard throughout the arena.
“I think everyone has seen ‘Miracle,’” Struthers said, referring to the 2004 film about the historic 1980 Olympic hockey game between the US and the Soviet Union. “To have such a loud crowd, even when USA scored, it was a testament to the crowd and their energy, for two weeks. It was really special, and winning gold in front of an arena like that was so exciting.
Throughout these games, the medal-winning team was not played their national anthem after receiving their award. Instead, they were treated to the FISU national anthem. So the Canadian cast did the next best thing… they sang “O Canada” self.
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