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By Sean Hartnett
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Johnny Football? How about Johnny Hockey?
Behind two goals from New Jersey native John Gaudreau, the United States advanced past the much-favored Canadians 5-1 into the IIHF 2013 World Junior Championship gold-medal game.
It was the most lopsided defeat for the Canadians in a medal-round game since the playoff format was introduced in 1996.
A 4 a.m. ET start didn’t stop dedicated American hockey fans from tuning into the broadcast. USA will play defending World Junior champions Sweden in the gold-medal game after the Swedes eliminated Russia in a shootout. An 8 a.m. live showing on Saturday will be a lot easier on Americans hoping to catch the tournament final.
The pint-sized 5-foot-6 Gaudreau dazzled his way past the Canadians with a stylish toe-drag goal that will surely be remembered as one of the best goals of the tournament.
His seven goals are tied for the second most ever by an American at a single tournament. Retired NHL icon and Team USA great Jeremy Roenick currently holds the record of eight. It’s a record Gaudreau has in his sights as the Americans prepare to play for gold.
On the other end of the ice, USA goaltender John Gibson was in sensational form. Gibson saved 33 of 34 shots against the Canadians. He was up to the task against Canadian forward and New York Islanders’ prospect Ryan Strome, who broke free on a breakaway. Gibson has only allowed eight goals all tournament.
Ty Rattie was the only Canadian to light the lamp in controversial fashion. The referee’s whistle had blown before the shorthanded goal went past Gibson. After review, the officials awarded the goal to the Canadians.
It was a game that the Americans dominated from start to finish. New York Rangers prospect J.T. Miller recorded two assists in the victory.
The Americans shocked Canada in the early stages by rushing out of the gates to a 2-0 first period lead thanks to two goals from captain Jake McCabe. Jim Vesey’s goal was sandwiched between two Gaudreau goals as Malcolm Subban was chased out of the Canadian net and replaced by Jordan Binnington.
Outspoken Hockey Night in Canada commentator and national Canadian icon Don Cherry gave the Americans credit for a game he felt USA dominated.
He tweeted: “We lost fair and square. No excuses. Gibson was sensational again just like he plays for the Kitchener Rangers. For some reason we were tight as a drum… the points killed us. It was like a shooting gallery. from the points. McCabe, defenceman, 2 goals and an assist. How many times have you heard me say cover the points? Housley had his defence involved in all plays.”
It was sweet revenge for the Americans, who lost to the Canadians 2-1 in the preliminary round. Now after pulling off the shocker, they’re hoping to bring the gold back home when they depart Ufa, Russia.
Did you wake up early to catch USA’s upset over Canada? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.