Zach Fucale leads Canadian juniors over U.S.
Makes 25 saves to help Canada secure top seed in Group A
Zach Fucale stopped 25 of 27 shots as Canada managed to leapfrog the United States into top spot in the Group A standings and sealed a date with Switzerland in the quarter-finals with a 3-2 win over the Americans at the world junior hockey championship in Malmo Sweden, on Tuesday.
As the minutes ticked down on Canada's victory over the United States, the overwhelmingly Canadian crowd of 3,882 at the Isstadion chanted "Foo-KAL-eh!"
"It gave me a lot of energy," the 18-year-old said. "It was very special.
"It just lifts you and you sort of play in the moment. It was good for me and the team."
Fucale, given a second straight start after helping Canada to a 5-3 win over Slovakia on Saturday, couldn't recall ever having his name chanted quite that way.
"Maybe a couple of thousand chanting against me," he offered with a laugh. "In Quebec City it happened. Maybe tonight a little louder."
Fucale made an acrobatic pad save on a short-handed breakaway against Washington Capitals draft pick Connor Carrick to preserve a two-goal lead with five minutes remaining in the third period.
And it was Jonathan Drouin who made a nice move to set up Curtis Lazar for a tap in power-play winner about four minutes into the period.
Connor McDavid scored his first of the tourney on a wraparound in the third period to help Canada to its first lead of the game.
The 16-year-old McDavid was under pressure since his benching in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Czech Republic, and scoring a goal could go a long way to restoring confidence in the highly skilled Erie Otters forward.
"Maybe a little bit," said McDavid. "As a hockey player you have to stay even keeled. Things happen in the game. The highs, the lows. You have to remain pretty confident. I think I've done a pretty good job of that."
Nic Petan also scored for Canada (3-0-1), which needed a win in regulation time in the final group stage game for both teams to pass the Americans (3-1-0) for top spot in the five-team group and a preferential spot in the quarter-finals. They will face the fourth-place team in the other group.
Riley Barber and Stefan Matteau scored for the U.S., which dominated the first half until momentum turned with Petan's goal at 12:49 of the second.
The U.S. squad that went into the game with a 58 per cent success rate on the power play (11-for-19) was held without a goal on three chances. It was the Americans who ran into penalty trouble in the third period.
At last year's world juniors, Canada beat the U.S. 2-1 in first round play, only to lose to them 5-1 in the semifinals.
Coach Brent Sutter opted to go with Fucale in goal for a second game in a row and it paid off in a scoreless first period as he stopped Jack Eichel in alone and then robbed Barber with a glove save from close range during an American power play.
For a fourth straight game, Canada surrendered the opening goal, this time just as a 4-on-4 situation ended and Taylor Leier was just leaving the penalty box.
Barber had the puck behind the Canadian net and caught Fucale moving the wrong way as he came around and slipped it inside the post 3:29 into the second frame.
Some hard work by Anthony Mantha produced the tying goal at 12:49, as he used his long reach to push the puck to the left side where Petan trailed in late to beat Jon Gilles to an open side.
Petan had scored the game-winner and an empty-net goal in Canada's 5-3 win over Slovakia on Monday.
Canada killed a penalty to start the third and then got one just as their own power play ended 3:54 into the third when Josh Morrissey got the puck to the net and McDavid had two chances to slide it past Gilles.
Lazar was camped in front for the re-direct on a power play at 6:13 as the puck went from Derrick Puliot to Drouin to the Edmonton forward for his second goal in as many games.
"I'm really getting into my element," the Ottawa Senators prospect said. "Coach Sutter's been moving me around. I've played centre, right and left wing. I'm still getting used to things, but it feels good to contribute."
The Americans battled back, and Fucale's breakaway save against Carrick sparked the mostly Canadian crowd of 3,882 to chant the goaltender's name.
Stefan Matteau scored for the Americans with 2:15 left to play on a shot that eluded Fucale's glove, but Canada shut the door the rest of the way.
Most of the post-game attention was on Fucale, the chatty goaltender who backstopped the Halifax Mooseheads to a Memorial Cup last spring. Fucale was dropped to backing up Jake Paterson after the first of three pre-tournament exhibition games, but it looks like he's Sutter's man now.
"He's a confident young man and he stood tall," said Sutter. "We need that."
Fucale's teammates laugh about Fucale's non-stop talking, even when he's by himself in the net during games.
"I try to stay low key, but maybe I talk a lot," Fucale said.
"I love Zach," said forward and fellow Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon. "I played with him peewee and bantam [in Boisbriand, Que.] and he had the same swagger.
"He was always cocky. It was a good for him and I think the crowd loved it too."
"It was unbelievable standing on the blue-line at the end of the game with the fans chanting Fucale," said McDavid. "I had chills and it wasn't for me, so I can't imagine how he felt.
"You see a lot of goalies and they're pretty weird. They have their routines and you can't talk to them, but he's really relaxed and honestly, he does have that swagger."
The game marked the return of Griffin Reinhart from a four-game suspension incurred against the Americans in the semifinals of last year's world juniors in Ufa, Russia. The big rearguard played a solid game paired mostly with Matt Dumba.
He finally got to play at a world juniors with his younger brother, forward Sam Reinhart. The two were on the ice together a lot, especially while penalty killing.
Canada to face Switzerland
The Canadians will face Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Thursday at the Isstadion. As usual, coach Brent Sutter wasn't offering much insight about his team's upcoming opponent.
"We now have 48 hours to prepare for our next opponent. Our focus over the next two days needs to be on this game and only on this game," was all he would say.
The Swiss pulled off a 4-3 shootout win over Finland, but it didn't lift them out of fourth place in their group. What the win did, however, was give the Americans a very tough quarter-final opponent in Russia.
With files from The Canadian Press