The tradition of an annual new years’ eve bash between Canada and the United States will continue this year, as the undefeated USA team takes on a struggling Team Canada, looking to find its footing and gain chemistry. Canada has dominated the new years’ eve matchup as of late, but the
Canada vs. USA.

Americans have won the more important match ups in the Semi-Final in 2013, and the Gold Medal game back in 2010.

For the first time in many years, Canada is considered the underdog against the USA, as the USA has torn through the division and easily defeated each team they’ve faced, scoring 19 goals for and just 4 goals against in the three games they’ve played. Canada on the other hand hasn’t had the same success. Although they had a large 7-2 victory over the Germans, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Czechs and a close win over the Slovakians has Canada behind the States in all categories. However, with a regulation win over the States, Canada would surpass the U.S. and win the division. For both teams, this is the biggest test they’ve faced yet, and it’s the most important game thus far, and Canada/U.S. games always deliver.

The New Years’ eve clash between the two north american countries have provided some magical moments. Who can forget John Tavares’ unbelievable performance back in the 2009 World Juniors, as he single-handedly led Canada past the Americans. This year should be no different, as both teams

McDavid vs. Eichel will be just one of many story lines in the game.

are excited to hit the ice against their neighbours. There are plenty of story lines to follow heading into this match: McDavid vs. Eichel, Drouin vs. Erne, but ultimately the biggest battle will be Canada against the United States. The two youngest rising stars on the planet will take to the ice against one another, as Canada’s Connor McDavid, touted the next Sidney Crosby takes on 17-year old Jack Eichel, McDavid’s one true competition for the #1 overall pick in 2015. McDavid and Eichel have faced off before, but not on this stage. It was only a few months ago that Adam Erne drove Jonathan Drouin from behind into the boards, but now they finally face each other for the first time since the hit that gave Drouin a concussion and sidelined him up until the World Juniors. Drouin says he won’t be going after Erne, but Erne suggests that Drouin “embellished” the hit, and made too much of a fuss about the ordeal. The funny thing is, both Drouin and Erne were drafted by the same team in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Tampa Bay Lighting. Erne says “Like it or not, we have to get along,” which might take some time for the 3rd overall pick.

If there is one main concern for Canada heading into the game, it’s discipline. Canada was scored on twice on the PK, 5-on-3 in fact, and Canada can’t afford to let the U.S. have the man advantage

Mathew Dumba has a lot of questions to answer.

often, or they will make Team Canada pay. The officiating has been considered “soft” compared to north american rules, but the referees won’t be changing their methods any time soon, so the Canadians need to adjust and stay out of the box. Canada also has gotten off to bad starts in every single one of their games so far, being scored on first in every contest thus far. Canada’s defence has to be better against the Americans, as the U.S. has lots of depth and will challenge Canada’s defence every shift, and Canada’s defence has been inconsistent thus far, with major question marks on Mathew Dumba and Adam Pelech. Both defenders have had underwhelming tournaments so far, and have stuck out like a sore thumb in all the wrong ways. In general, Canada needs to stay out of the box and come out of the gates better, while maintaining a consistently solid defence.

You can’t pinpoint one U.S. player to cover in the game, but Riley Barber would be a start. Barber won Gold at last year’s tournament, and is the team captain this year. Barber has 3 goals and an assist so far in this tournament, but Barber packs the most firepower of all the Americans in terms of

Team USA Captain Riley Barber.

offensive talent and defensive prowess. The biggest thing that sets the U.S. apart from Canada is teamwork. The Americans have been training and playing together for a while now, and they’ve bonded more as a team and their on-ice performance reflects that. Despite being the top team in the tournament so far, not one American is in the top-5 scoring in the tournament, as the scoring on the team is spread out across the team, unlike Canada at the moment. Jack Eichel, Adam Erne and Matt Grzelyck are also among the USA’s top offensive players this year, and Team Canada will have to play well to fend off these talented players.

In between the pipes, Zachary Fucale will battle Jon Gillies of the United States. Gillies is 2-0 with a GAA of 2.0 and an impressive save percentage of .926. Team Canada will have to muster

Fucale gets the nod against the U.S.

some great scoring chances to beat Gillies. Fucale picked up the win against the Slovaks, and didn’t have too much of a chance on any of the Slovak goals, but he’ll get a major test against the Americans that could decide his fate for the rest of the tournament. If he plays well, Fucale will be the #1 heading into the elimination rounds, and if he loses he may not see the crease for the rest of the tournament. If Canada can stay disciplined and keep the majority of chances to the outside, Fucale will be just fine, but he must be ready for the Americans to create scoring chances at all times, as the U.S. moves the puck extremely well and opens up the ice very well. Fucale will have to be on top of his game to stop the undefeated juggernauts of the division.

As we count down the hours to the game, we can be excited for a high tempo, intense game between two rivals that always make for a great game. Canada may be the underdogs, but if the team puts in the effort and stays out of the box, it’s anybody’s game. Anthony Mantha and Curtis Lazar have been the two spark plugs thus far, with some clutch goals from Nic Petan and Jonathan Drouin. I’m expecting a lot from the McDavid-Horvat-Reinhart line to bounce back after a couple of quiet games. Things may get chippy, especially concerning Drouin and Erne, and McDavid and Eichel, which will just add to the drama of the game and increase the intensity. Canada vs. USA never fails to deliver, and this year should be no different.