Canada shuts down high-flying U.S. offense, will play for gold

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The U.S. was averaging five goals per game heading into the Olympic semifinals.

Against Canada, it couldn’t muster one.

That was the story at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Friday as Carey Price stopped all 31 shots faced and Canada continued its stifling defense in a 1-0 win over the Americans, securing a berth in the gold medal game for the second consecutive Olympics.

“Our back-checking was excellent tonight, and our forecheck was good,” Price told CBC’s Elliotte Friedman following the game. “We tried to stay on the right side of the puck the whole night, and the effort was there.”

VIDEO: Highlights from Canada’s 1-0 win

Jamie Benn scored the game’s lone marker — his second of the tournament — early in the second period, deflecting home a Jay Bouwmeester slap-pass. The game-winner was one of the biggest of Benn’s career and made for a great story, as Benn is the lone player on the Canadian team that didn’t get invited to Hockey Canada’s Olympic orientation camp.

For the Americans, getting shut out was a disappointment given their scoring exploits thus far.

After blowing opponents away with a relentless offensive attack, the U.S. was stymied by Price and a determined group of Canadian skaters that have now allowed just three goals over the course of this tournament. The Phil Kessel-Joe Pavelski-James van Riemsdyk line, which combined for 18 points over the first four U.S. games, was held in check and the rest of the forwards struggled to pick up the slack — the “Meat Line” of Dustin Brown, David Backes and Ryan Callahan, so successful in a quarterfinal win over the Czechs, failed to put a single shot on the Canadian goal.

VIDEO: Watch Jamie Benn’s goal

The U.S. also failed to convert on all three of its power play chances — despite coming in with the third-ranked PP (27. 3 percent) — though much of that had to do with Canada’s dogged determination on the penalty kill.

As the final score suggests, both goalies were great. Price was clutch in a 31-save shutout but Quick was just as good, if not better, in stopping 36 of 37 shots, including all 16 in a wild opening period that saw the teams trade chances throughout.

Looking ahead, Canada will now take on Sweden in the gold medal game, marking the first time a North American country will face a European one for gold since NHLers began Olympic participation in 1998.

The U.S. will take on Finland for bronze, looking to medal for the second straight Games and third in the last four.

Kings give another kid a look, recall AHL All-Star Brodzinski

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Last summer, Kings head coach Darryl Sutter stressed that some of the club’s young prospects needed to make an impact at the NHL level.

And now it’s happening.

Following the recalls and NHL debuts of Adrian Kempe and Paul LaDue, the Kings have brought up Jonny Brodzinski from AHL Ontario, the club announced on Thursday.

Brodzinski, 23, made the AHL All-Star team this year and leads the Reign in goals, with 25 through 56 games. The former St. Could State sniper left school early two years ago to join the Kings organization, after L.A. took him in the fifth round of the ’13 draft.

As mentioned above, this recall is in lockstep with what’s developed throughout the year. Kempe, 20, was the club’s first-round pick (29th overall) in ’14 and has fared well since joining the big club, with six points in 16 games.

LaDue, 24, was a sixth-round pick in ’12 that — like Kempe and Brodzinski — fared well in the American League before getting recalled in February. LaDue has appeared in 15 games for the Kings, scoring five points while averaging 16:25 TOI per night.

Los Angeles is still technically in the playoff race, but sits eight points back of Nashville for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference — with just 10 games to play. As such, the focus might now shift to giving some youngsters NHL experience.

Brodzinski will have to wait for his, however. Per LA Kings Insider, it doesn’t look like he’ll play tonight, when the Kings host the Jets at Staples.

 

 

Polak gets two games for boarding Bjorkstrand

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Roman Polak‘s hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand has drawn more than the ire of Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella.

Today, the NHL announced that Polak, a defenseman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has been suspended two games for boarding Bjorkstrand Wednesday in Columbus.

In making the ruling, the league’s Department of Player Safety determined that Polak sent Bjorkstrand “violently” into the boards from behind, causing an injury. The DoPS also noted that the hit was avoidable, with the onus on Polak to “ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least, minimizes the force of the impact.”

You can watch the full ruling below:

Wild prospect Kunin leaves Wisconsin, turns pro

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Minnesota is getting one of its prized youngsters in the mix.

Luke Kunin, the club’s first-round pick (15th overall) at last year’s draft, is leaving the University of Wisconsin following his sophomore campaign, per the Star-Tribune. Kunin will reportedly join Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Iowa on an amateur tryout.

Kunin, 19, is coming off a pretty successful campaign. He was the first soph to captain the Badgers in over 40 years, and led the team in goals (22) and points (38). That came after he captained the U.S. to gold at the world juniors, scoring four points in seven games.

Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Kunin will play out this year in the minors, and his entry-level deal will kick in next season. That means he won’t be with the Wild at all this year — regular season or playoffs.

As mentioned, Kunin is just one of the many talented prospects Minnesota has in the fold. Russian Kirill Kaprizov, Sweden’s Joel Eriksson-Ek and Kunin’s U.S. junior teammate, Jordan Greenway, all showed extremely well at the worlds.

Hurricanes sign Finnish prospect Kuokkanen

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The Carolina Hurricanes have another talented, young Finn under contract.

The ‘Canes announced this morning that they’ve signed forward Janne Kuokkanen to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Kuokkanen was drafted in the second round, 43rd overall, in 2016. The 18-year-old is currently with the OHL’s London Knights. He finished the regular season with 26 goals and 36 assists in 60 games.

“Janne was outstanding in our rookie tournament in Traverse City in September, and stayed in North America to continue his development in the Ontario Hockey League,” said ‘Canes GM Ron Francis in a release. “He’s a smart, skilled forward and we look forward to the start of his professional career.”

The ‘Canes already have two Finnish forwards in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Aho and Kuokkanen were teammates in the Karpat (Liiga) development system in Finland.