U.S. rallies vs. Canada to win first-ever outdoor World Juniors game

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The United States and Canada packed more than 44,000 people into the Buffalo Bills’ New Era Field on Friday for a World Juniors showdown, and with snow falling, it only makes sense that a flurry turned the game.

Canada generated a 3-1 lead, but Brady Tkachuk and the U.S. team rallied back for an eventual 4-3 shootout win. The 3-2 and 3-3 goals happened within a minute of each other.

More than a few people compared the scene to the first Winter Classic between the Penguins and Sabres, which was also in Buffalo. Not a bad warm-up for the upcoming 2018 Winter Classic, eh?

NHL legacies ended up factoring into this one, as both Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows scored during regulation and in the shootout. Casey Mittelstadt was also a considerable factor, collecting an assist on all three of America’s goals. (Mittelstadt was named the player of the game on the U.S. side, while goalie Carter Hart was Canada’s.)

Tkachuk & Co. justified people traveling in treacherous conditions, and plenty of people had fun with the blustery scene.

Brady is described by some as the more explosively talented Tkachuk, which is saying something because Matthew is already a very effective NHL player. If moments like these are any indication, he might have at least some of his brother’s knack for agitating:

This was a helpful win for the U.S., with the preliminary round of play concluding with a Dec. 31 match against Finland. As TSN notes, the U.S. has gotten the better of Canada at the World Juniors lately:

The Americans have owned their northern neighbour of late – at least at World Juniors. Friday was Team USA’s fourth straight win over Team Canada in tournament play since 2015, including last year’s gold-medal game. Team Canada has missed nine consecutive shootout attempts against Team USA.

Maybe these two teams will meet again during a higher-stakes moment in the tournament? Either way, memories were forged at the first-ever outdoor game for the World Juniors, which set an attendance record.

Speaking of that first Winter Classic, recall it here:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Slovakia scores late to upset US 3-2 at world juniors

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Samuel Bucek scored an unassisted goal with 2:08 remaining in the third period to give Slovakia a 3-2 victory over the United States at the world junior hockey championship on Thursday.

Filip Krivoski scored the other two goals for Slovakia, and Roman Durny made 43 saves in his world junior debut.

Casey Mittlestadt and Brady Tkachuk had goals for the U.S., which had won nine straight world junior games entering the night. The U.S. began its streak with the 2016 bronze medal game and went undefeated in winning the gold medal last year in Toronto. The previous American record was eight consecutive victories from 2004-05.

The U.S. faces Canada in an outdoor game at the Buffalo Bills’ New Era Field on Friday afternoon.

In other preliminary-round games, Sweden beat the Czech Republic 3-1, Russia pulled away in the third period for a 5-2 victory over Switzerland and Finland defeated Denmark 4-1.

Slovakia is 4-13-1 all-time against the U.S. in the world junior championship and had lost six straight preliminary-round meetings since last defeating the U.S. in a 2009 quarterfinal.

Bucek made an outstanding individual effort to score the winning goal, maneuvering around three defenders and circling behind the net before slipping the wraparound past Joseph Woll, who stopped 22 shots for the U.S.

Mittelstadt tied the game for U.S. with 3:11 left in the third period.

Following a 9-0 rout of Denmark on Tuesday, the U.S. got off to a sluggish start in a game it never led.

Krivosik gave Slovakia a 1-0 lead five minutes into the second period. He put Slovakia ahead 2-1 on a backhand with 4:45 left in the third period.

Ryan Poehling set up Tkachuk for the tying goal on a 2-on-1 midway through the second period.

Earlier, Alex Nylander had a goal and an assist and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the expected top pick in next year’s NHL draft, had two assists to lead Sweden.

Marcus Davidsson and Elias Pettersson also scored goals as Sweden improved to 2-0 in preliminary play. Filip Gustavsson made 24 saves.

Filip Zadina scored the Czech Republic goal to make it 2-1 late in the second period. Jakub Skarek stopped 34 shots.

Artur Kayumov and Georgi Ivanov scored third-period goals to lead Russia over Switzerland. Kim Kostin and Vladislav Syomin each had a goal and an assist, Andrei Svechnikov had two assists and Vitali Abramov scored an empty-netter for the Russians, who are 1-1 in preliminary play.

Marco Miranda and Ken Jager scored for Switzerland. Philip Wuthrich made 32 saves. Jager’s goal tied the game at 2-2 early in the third period before Kaymov scored the go-ahead goal with 8:58 remaining.

Juuso Valimaki and Henri Jokiharju both had a goal and assist for Finland in its win over Denmark.

Joona Koppanen and Aapeli Rasanen scored the other goals to give Finland a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes. Miro Heiskanen had two assists and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen needed to make just six saves. Finland improved to 1-1 in group play.

Kasper Krog stopped 58 shots for Denmark. Nikolaj Krag scored Denmark’s first of the tournament following a 9-0 loss to the United States in the opener.

Krag scored on a power play to make it 2-1 early in the second period. Finland pulled away when Valimaki and Jokihariu scored two minutes apart late in the period.

U.S. dominates Denmark to open world junior championship

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Casey Mittelstadt got the United States off to a quick start in its title defense at the world junior hockey championship.

Mittelstadt scored twice in the first period, Kieffer Bellows also had two goals and Joseph Woll made 17 saves to earn the shutout as the U.S. opened the tournament with a 9-0 victory over Denmark on Tuesday night.

In other preliminary-round games, the Czech Republic upset Russia 5-4, Sweden beat Belarus 6-1 and Canada held on for a 4-2 win over Finland.

Max Jones, Kailer Yamamoto, Patrick Harper, Andrew Peeke and Dylan Samberg also scored for the U.S., which had three goals in the first nine minutes.

”We came out ready to go,” said Mittelstadt, the most recent first-round draft choice for the Buffalo Sabres. ”We wanted to come out and score some goals and get our team going right away.”

Mittelstadt’s second goal gave the U.S. a 5-0 lead late in the first period.

”Every time Casey steps on the ice, we know everyone is going to be watching him,” Bellows said. ”He does some special stuff with the puck and he’s a really special player.”

U.S. coach Bob Motzko remained undefeated in the world junior championships.

After winning last year’s tournament in Montreal, the U.S. is seeking back-to-back gold medals for the first time. Denmark placed fifth last year, its highest finish in history.

The opening game was the most competitive of the day. Filip Zadina and Filip Chytil scored second-period goals for the Czech Republic in a stunning 5-4 victory over Russia.

Russia has medaled at the past seven world juniors while the Czech Republic has not reached the medal round since 2005. This was the Czech Republic’s second victory in its past 12 meetings with Russia.

Martin Necas, Filip Kral and Ostap Safin also scored for the Czech Republic, and Martin Kaut had three assists. Josef Korenar made 34 saves.

Zadina and Chytil scored to give the Czech Republic a 4-2 lead late in the second period. Filip Kraul scored the Czech Republic’s fifth goal 6:16 into the third period.

Artur Kayumov and Vladislav Syomin scored late in the third period for Russia. Marsel Sholokhov and Alexei Polodyan scored in the first period.

Also Tuesday, Boris Katchouk had a goal and an assist as Canada beat Finland 4-2.

Katchouk’s linemate Taylor Raddysh scored and added an assist for Canada, while Drake Batherson had the eventual winner and Sam Steel scored a goal.

Carter Hart made 29 saves for the win.

Canadian defenseman Cal Foote made a heads-up play late in the third period when he dove behind his goalie, swatting the puck away just as it touched the goal line, bouncing it off the post and out.

A video review at the next stoppage of play upheld the no-goal call on the ice.

”I wasn’t sure I had it. The puck was on its side,” Foote said. ”But looking back at the replay, it was close but I was pretty sure I got it.”

It was the second video review that went Canada’s way in the game. Katchouk’s opening score was also upheld after Finnish head coach Jussi Ahokas challenged it for goalie interference.

Aleksi Heponiemi and Henri Jokiharju replied for Finland, while Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 28 of 32 shots.

In another preliminary-round game, Lias Andersson scored twice for Sweden in a 6-1 win over Belarus.

Elias Pettersson and Erik Brannstrom each added a goal and an assist. Glenn Gustafsson and Jens Boqvist scored Sweden’s other two goals. Alexander Nylander, Rasmus Dahlin and Fredrik Karlstrom had two assists apiece.

Yegor Sharangovich scored for Belarus. Andrei Grishenko stopped 31 shots.

Parity catching up to Canada at World Junior Championship

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Canada has more than one score to settle. The United States has a title to defend. And don’t discount Sweden.

The 10-nation World Junior hockey championship tournament opens in Buffalo on Tuesday with numerous subplots. The most notable involves the question of whether parity is finally catching up to the Canadians.

Bring it on, says Canada manager and two-time world junior gold medalist Joel Bouchard.

”I played in ’93 and ’94, and it was not even close to what it is right now,” Bouchard said.

”Every country is pushing it. And it’s our job to keep bringing the bar higher and higher,” he added. ”We know everybody is looking at us. And that’s good. That’s what you want.”

The landscape has dramatically shifted since 2009, when the Canadians set a world junior record by winning their fifth straight title.

In the eight years since, Canada has won just one gold medal – in 2015 with a team featuring Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid.

By contrast, the U.S. has won three times, including a 5-4 shootout win over Canada – and in Canada no less – in the championship game in January. Finland has won twice and the Swedes and Russians once each.

No one is discounting Canada’s chances of winning its 17th gold medal this time, especially with a roster stocked with eight first-round NHL draft picks.

And yet, as Russian defenseman and New Jersey Devils prospect Yegor Zaitsev said through an interpreter: ”Canada is not more favored than Russia.”

It’s a trend even Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who coached Canada to win the 1997 world junior title, couldn’t help but acknowledge.

”On population base alone, the U.S. should take over one day eventually,” Babcock told The Associated Press. ”But I’m going to get my passport and flag out and I’ll be cheering for Canada to get back on track.”

One drawback is Canada’s inability to draw upon the nation’s entire pool of players 20 and younger because the top talent is already competing in the NHL. McDavid, for example, could have represented Canada for two more years, but was instead busy producing at more than a point-a-game pace while winning last season’s NHL MVP honor during his first two years in Edmonton.

USA Hockey is enjoying a golden era by doubling its medal count from five to 10 (four gold, one silver and five bronze) since 2010. The surge reflects a rise of nationwide registration, and attributed to the NHL’s expansion into nontraditional markets such as Arizona, where 2016 No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews grew up rooting for the Coyotes.

The test for the Americans is becoming the first U.S. team to win consecutive titles, and first nation since Canada’s five-year run to repeat as champions.

”Honestly, I would never say pressure,” U.S. coach Bob Motzko said. ”I would be foolish to waste energy having those feelings. I love the process. I’m more nervous about what we’re going to do at practice tomorrow.”

The Americans’ 23-player roster features seven returnees, and nine first-round picks.

The U.S. is in the same pool as Canada, and the two will meet in international hockey’s first outdoor game, which will be played at the NFL Buffalo Bills’ New Era Field on Friday.

Sweden might finally be in line to medal after finishing fourth in each of the past three years.

The Swedes’ roster is particularly strong in the back end with three goalies already drafted by NHL teams. The defense features Rasmus Dahlin, a potential No. 1 pick in next year’s draft.

”He’s good, but he’s going to have a tough tournament,” coach Tomas Monten said. ”Everyone’s going to be on him. But I think that’s going to create more space for others.”

Sweden got a boost last week when the Buffalo Sabres assigned prospect Alexander Nylander to represent his country for a third consecutive tournament. Nylander finished tied for the world junior lead last year with 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in seven games.

The Russians are considered somewhat of an unknown, despite having won medals for seven straight years. That included the 2011 title when the tournament was also held in Buffalo. Russia rallied from a 3-0 third-period deficit to beat Canada 5-3 in the final.

”The comeback was crazy. And I just felt so proud,” said Russian defenseman Nikolai Knyzhov, who watched the victory on TV. ”And now we’re back here trying to do the same thing.”

The loss marked the third time Canada has settled for silver since 2010, with its other two title-game defeats against the U.S.

This past year’s shootout loss to the Americans still stings for Canada’s returning players.

”There’s no point in trying to avoid it. It’s obviously there,” defenseman Jake Bean said. ”It kind of fills you every day to be on the ice, just make sure you do everything just that much more intensely, that much more focused and just try not to leave it down to a question or a chance.”

PHT Morning Skate: Which USA World Junior players could make NHL impact soon?

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Injured Leafs forward Auston Matthews skated on Monday, but his status is still unclear going forward. (TSN.ca)

Kevin Shattenkirk admitted that comments former head coach Barry Trotz said about him not being a top pairing defenseman bothered him. But Trotz’s explanation to him after a recent game was enough to smooth things over. (NY Post)

• It sounds like T.J. Oshie will return to the Caps lineup for tonight’s game against the Dallas Stars. (Washington Post)

• Kings head coach John Stevens was back in Philadelphia last night, and he has a lot of fond memories of his time there. (LA Times)

• With all of Eugene Melnyk’s recent comments about potentially moving the Sens, check out the financial state of the team. (Senschirp.ca)

• Speaking of Melnyk, Vice Sports argues that Ottawa deserves better than him. (Vice Sports)

• NHL.com looks at which Team USA World Junior players could make an impact in the NHL in the next two years. (NHL.com)

• The Golden Knights play a simple game, but it’s been working for them so far. (Sinbin.Vegas)

• Will the New York Islanders be awarded the Belmont site? We’ll find out on Wednesday. (SNY.TV)

• Adam Gretz has a great piece about Mitch Marner‘s inability to score goals this season. (Fan Rag Sports)

• Team USA’s women’s team will have a trio of young goaltenders on their roster for the upcoming Olympics. (Sporting News)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.