Their tournament got off to a rough start when they allowed an early goal to Finland in the first period of their first game of the World Junior Championships, but ever since then Team USA has been virtually unstoppable.
Since that goal, the U.S. has outscored their opponents by a margin of 10-0, and they’ve been getting contributions from everywhere. Their goaltending has been outstanding, with Brandon Halverson and Thatcher Demko each pitching shutouts in wins against Germany and Slovakia respectively. Their offense has been on fire, outshooting opponents by a 98-31 margin over their last two games. They’ve gotten contributions from their big guns like Jack Eichel, who has a goal and an assist in the tournament, and Dylan Larkin, who has three goals and two assists thus far.
All of those contributions have been critical in leaving the Americans just one point behind Team Canada in the Group A standings, but it all goes out the window on Wednesday as the two teams do battle to finish off pool play in style at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
While the U.S. side has been dominant, the Canadian side has been downright scary. Like the Americans, Team Canada has allowed just one goal in the tournament, and they also have scored 16 goals, more than any other team. Five different Canadian players have two goals so far in the tournament, with Sam Reinhart leading the way with two goals and three assists through three games as Canada has romped to an undefeated 3-0-0 record.
While a lot of attention will be paid to the matchup between Eichel and Connor McDavid, the likely top two picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Chicago Blackhawks fans will have their own prospects to watch in the game. John Hayden, a third round pick of the Hawks in the 2013 draft, was named an alternate captain for the team in Canada, and he’s responded with one goal and five shots in the three wins. Fellow 2013 picks Anthony Louis (five shots on goal thus far) and Tyler Motte (one assist) are also playing well thus far.
2014 first-round pick Nick Schmaltz is also on the team, and he picked up an assist in a 6-0 win over Germany on Sunday.
Between the Eichel vs. McDavid storyline and the Blackhawks’ prospects skating for Team USA, there is also something tangible at stake for both teams: the top seed in their group. Earning that spot would mean that they could avoid a tough matchup against Sweden in the semi-final of the tournament, and it would also ensure that they would face a lower-seeded opponent in the quarter-final round.
The game will be contested at 3 p.m. Central on Wednesday afternoon, and it can be seen on NHL Network in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada.