Canadian men fall to U.S. for 1st loss of Olympic hockey tournament
Canada unlikely to win group following defeat, plays China next on Sunday
In a battle of styles, Canada's men's hockey team lost out to the U.S. on Saturday at the Beijing Olympics.
The speedy young Americans beat the big, experienced Canadian squad 4-2 for its second win in as many tries of the tournament. Canada falls to 1-1 with the loss.
"They are fast, fast on transition. It is on us to be better, put pucks deep and not feed into their transition," said Canadian forward David Desharnais.
"You can't feed their transition and that is exactly what we did."
The North American powerhouses are grouped with reigning silver medallist Germany and host China in the group stage that determines seeding for the knockout rounds.
WATCH | Highlights from Canada's loss to U.S.:
It was the first game between the rivals since 2014 Olympic semifinals, when Canada's star-studded roster of NHLers ground out a 1-0 victory on the way to winning gold in Sochi.
On Saturday, the youngsters won out to set up the U.S. to win Group A and avoid the qualification round, in which Canada is now likely to play.
"A lot of people think about physicality and size, but you can be a physical team in a lot of different ways. We have a bunch of guys who compete, they don't back down," said American head coach David Quinn.
Captain Andy Miele led the charge for the U.S. with a goal and assist, pestering Canadian defencemen on the forecheck all game. Miele, a veteran of 15 NHL contests, set the tone by tying things at 1 about a minute after Canada opened the scoring early in the first period.
"To put a stop to their momentum right away was awesome," Miele said.
WATCH | Kenny Agostino supplies the dagger for U.S.:
It was a boost for the U.S., which had just seen its own goalie, Strauss Mann, allow a weak Mat Robinson wrister from the sideboards past him for the opening score.
"We played into their hands on some shifts. They are a strong team and we gave them too much room on some of those goals. We will have to learn from that," said Canadian defenceman Max Noreau.
Quinn said Miele means a lot to the Americans.
"He is obviously a guy these players, and the staff, have a lot of respect for. He has a tenacity to him for a guy his size," he said.
Instead of Canada dominating the opening frame, the U.S. took control and eventually capitalized late when forward Ben Meyers stuffed in a loose puck from the crease.
The Americans would go up 3-1 early in the second when Pasquale gave the puck away behind his net and failed to recover, allowing forward Brenden Brisson to pot an easy one.
Canada cut its deficit back to one when Corban Knight scored off a short-handed rush. The U.S. restored its two goal-lead in the third period as a Kenny Agostino clapper squeaked through Pasquale's pads.
WATCH | Knight pots shorty:
Canada outshot the U.S. 37-27, including 17-4 in the final frame.
"There are no excuses. We have to get better," Noreau said.
Youth vs. experience
Canada, which played its continental rival in a controlled scrimmage earlier this week, brought a mix of youth and experience to China, including captain Eric Staal, while the U.S. opted for a roster mostly made up of NCAA players.
American defenceman and Ottawa Senators prospect Jake Sanderson, who tested positive for COVID-19 before the team departed Los Angeles and had to pass six tests to be eligible, dressed for his first game of the tournament.
The NHL's decision to withdraw from the tournament because of COVID-19 concerns — the second time in as many Games the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews have missed out — opened the door for both teams to bring some of its next generation.
The top-3 picks at the 2021 NHL draft played Saturday, with defenceman Owen Power (first overall, Buffalo Sabres) and forward Mason McTavish (third overall, Anaheim Ducks) in the lineup for Canada, while Beniers (second overall, Seattle Kraken) suited up for the U.S.
Canada closes out group-stage action with a contest against China on Sunday at 8:10 a.m. ET.
The gold-medal game is slated for 11:10 p.m. ET on Feb. 19 at the National Indoor Stadium.
On Saturday, Denmark edged Switzerland 5-3 and the Czech Republic defeated the Russian Olympic Committee in overtime 6-5.
Canada, which won bronze at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang with another roster of non-NHLers, topped the podium in 2002, 2010 and 2014 with its professional stars, but hasn't secured gold minus its best since 1952.
You can watch every game of the tournament live or on demand on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app, or on CBC Gem.
WATCH | Full replay of Canada vs. U.S.:
With files from The Canadian Press