Penticton Vees players playing at the World Junior A Challenge for Team Canada West will face Canada East this afternoon in the quarter-finals.
Canada West has yet to win a game losing to the Czech Republic in their first preliminary game then falling to the U.S. yesterday 2-1. The all-Canadian quarter-final takes place at 7:30 (AT) in Truro, Nova Scotia.
Jack Dugan poked in a loose puck with 32.7 seconds remaining, giving the United States the narrow win over Canada West.
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 (Paradise, N.L./Victoria, BCHL).
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.
“I thought we played great. The effort was there, we played the Canadian way, which is something we preached to our guys going into tonight’s game. (We wanted) to make sure we made it tough on the Americans, and I thought we did that. It was a great game from both ends – if you’re a fan, you’re pretty happy with that game to watch,” said Canada West head coach Mike Reagan (Flin Flon, Man./Flin Flon, SJHL).
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 (Rosalind/Trail, BCHL) finished a beautiful cross-ice feed from Angus Crookshank (North Vancouver/Langley, BCHL) 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 defencemen, Ryan O’Connell (Gloucester,Ont./Penticton Vees, BCHL) 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.