U.S. EDGES WEST IN THRILLER TO CLOSE PRELIMS AT WJAC
JASON LA ROSE
TRURO, N.S. – Jack Dugan poked in a loose puck with 32.7 seconds remaining, giving the United States a narrow 2-1 win over Canada West in the preliminary-round finale Tuesday at the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.
The win means the U.S. will face Switzerland in the first quarter-final Wednesday (3:30 p.m. AT), followed by West meeting East in an all-Canadian medal round match-up (7:30 p.m. AT).
With overtime looming, Dugan found the puck laying in the crease after a shot from Paul Cotter had squeezed under the arm of Canadian goaltender Zach Rose.
The winning goal capped arguably the best game of the tournament thus far, with more than 2,500 fans at the RECC treated to an end-to-end classic between the only two teams to ever win WJAC gold that was short on offence but not on excitement.
A fast-paced and physical first period failed to produce a goal, with West holding an 11-8 advantage in shots.
The Americans struck first just past the three-minute mark of the second period when a Clayton Phillips shot banked off the skate of Graham Slaggert and right to Cole Guttman, who beat Rose for a 1-0 lead.
But the advantage lasted just 35 seconds; Ross Armour finished a beautiful cross-ice feed from Angus Crookshank to pull the Canadians even.
Rose and American counterpart Jake Kucharski took over from there, going save for save for close to 36 minutes until Dugan won it for the U.S.
The game included only a single penalty, a hooking call on West defenceman Ryan O’Connell in the early minutes. It is just the second game in tournament history with one minor, joining the 2011 gold medal game between Canada East and Canada West.