BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Griffin Ness converted a breakaway 7:35 into overtime, giving the United States a 3-2 semifinal win over Canada West on Saturday night and a place in the gold medal game at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge.
The U.S. will face Russia on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. MT, TSN), one win away from its eighth gold medal, and second in Bonnyville – it claimed the 2016 title in northeastern Alberta.
With the teams going end to end in a non-stop overtime period, Ness took a stretch pass from Jack Malone and raced away from the Canadian defence before beating goaltender Matthew Davis (Calgary, Alta./Spruce Grove, AJHL) past the blocker.
It was marked the second time in a week that the two teams required extra time; West earned a 2-1 shootout win in the tournament opener for both last Sunday.
The Americans came out like a house on fire in the semifinal, striking for a pair of goals in the first seven minutes to quiet the pro-Canadian crowd at the R.J. Lalonde Arena.
Josh Nodler got it started at 4:31, cleaning up a loose puck in front after Robert Mastrosimone stickhandled his way to the front of the net, and Ronnie Attard one-timed a cross-ice feed from Bobby Brink past Davis at 6:08.
West had its opportunities in the second period, but it took until the 16:40 mark to break through; just seconds after he had the puck roll off his stick on a mini-breakaway down low, Mathieu Gosselin (Quebec City, Que./Merritt, BCHL) banked a shot off U.S. netminder Blake Pietila from behind the net to get the Canadians within one after 40 minutes.
Alexander Campbell (Châteauguay, Que./Victoria, BCHL) needed just 1:49 of the third period to get West even, sneaking behind the American defence and slipping a backhand five-hole on Pietila to make it 2-2.
The teams traded chances the rest of the way, but neither could find the winner in regulation.
The Canadians still have a chance to leave with a medal; they take on the Czech Republic for bronze on Sunday afternoon (12 p.m. MT, TSN).
By Jason La Rose/Hockey Canada