ONTARIO 3, UNITED STATES 0
From 19, a span of 12 tournaments, one of Ontario or the United States appeared in every gold medal game at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, except for one (West vs. Pacific, 2005). But the two teams never faced off for the top prize.
On January 4, Ontario and the U.S. met in front of 8,889 fans at the John Labatt Centre in London , Ont., an all-time attendance record for the U17s, shattering the previous record set in St. John’s, N.L. in 2004 by more than 2,500 fans.
Ontario entered the game at 5-0, looking to become the first team since the Americans in 2001 to run the table and win gold. The U.S. came in looking to avenge its 2006 gold medal game loss to Quebec.
Ontario’s roster featured future NHL first round picks Matt Duchene, Ryan Ellis and Zack Kassian, along with consensus 2010 first-overall pick Taylor Hall. The U.S. countered with a team led by defenceman Cam Fowler, a projected top-three pick in 2010.
Goaltender Michael Zador of Ontario and Brandon Maxwell of the U.S. were the top two goaltenders, statistically, in the tournament – both carried undefeated records into the gold medal game. But Zador came down with the flu the morning of the gold medal game, sending untested Bryce O’Hagen into the nets against the Americans.
A defensive struggle in the opening 20 minutes – the shots were 7-5 in favour of Ontario – it was Canadian side that got on the board first, thanks to a breakaway goal from Hall, who rifled a shot over the glove of Maxwell to break the ice.
Hall was at it again in the second, setting up Peter Holland for the 2-0 goal eight minutes into the middle frame, and Duchene made it 3-0 three minutes later, igniting the pro-Ontario crowd at the JLC.
O’Hagen was at his best in the second period, when Ontario was outshot 14-5, and stopped nine more in the third, finishing with a 28-save shutout, earning player of the game honours and backstopping Ontario to its sixth U17 gold medal, first since 2004.