Fans of the U.S. men's hockey team were deprived of seeing the Americans take on Canada in PyeongChang. But with both nations being placed in the same group at the 2022 Winter Olympics, they finally got their long-awaited taste of what a win against Canada feels like. The U.S. took down their neighbors from north of the border by a score of 4-2, giving them their first win over Canada at the Olympics since 2010.
It wasn't an ideal start for the Americans, though. The Canadians struck first after Greenwich, Connecticut, native Strauss Mann allowed a very stoppable Mat Robinson shot through his five-hole, but the U.S. responded quickly when Andy Miele roofed a slick backhander past Edward Pasquale just over a minute later to tie it.
Ben Meyers then gave the Americans the lead with 1:16 remaining in the opening stanza with a quick shot through heavy traffic at the netfront.
The U.S. got a pretty significant reinforcement on the blue line with the addition of Jake Sanderson to the lineup, and Sanderson played a key role on the Americans' second goal after he forced a Canada turnover in the neutral zone, putting him in position to earn a secondary assist on the marker. Sanderson was late arriving to the Olympics after being placed in COVID-19 protocols last week, but the 19-year-old arrived at the Games just in time to suit up for Friday night's tilt.
"Last week was pretty frustrating for me. But now I have my first game under me, I feel a little better," said Sanderson after the game.
"I feel like I haven’t played in two weeks so getting this game under me feels pretty good."
The Americans built on their lead early in the middle period when Brendan Brisson, who scored his second goal in as many games, put the U.S. up 3-1. Pasquale misplayed a puck behind his own net that resulted in a turnover, and Nick Shore swept in and fed the lurking Brisson to double the U.S. advantage.
Momentum shifted back in Canada's favor not long after the game's midway point, though. After the Canadians took a penalty for too many men, Corban Knight scored shorthanded following an ill-advised pinch by U.S. forward Matty Beniers in the attacking zone. Canada then came within inches of tying the contest with time dying down in the second period, but the Americans survived the Canadians' offensive surge to take their one-goal lead into the intermission.
Luckily for the Americans, a bomb from Kenny Agostino squeaked past Pasquale a little over six minutes into the final frame, putting the U.S. back up by a pair of markers. Agostino took a lazy charging penalty at the end of the second period that resulted in a dangerous power play for Canada, so it was good to see the 29-year-old redeem himself with an enormous tally to extend his squad's lead.
Mann, though his game didn't get off to a great start, was outstanding for the U.S. in the third period. He stopped all 17 shots fired his way in the frame to lead the Americans to victory, finishing the tilt with an impressive 35 saves. Not a bad Olympic debut for the University of Michigan product.
Believe it or not, Mann is actually one of the elder statesmen on the roster despite being just 23. There are five teenagers on the U.S. roster, but in the win against Canada, they were all ready to go to battle.
"The kids can play, that's safe to say. It's clear we've got a lot of speed and a lot of talent, but this was a man's game today," said Agostino.
"Canada vs. USA, there's really no explanation needed. All of them stepped up and played like men out there tonight. The game is in safe hands. If anything, the last few years have shown that age in terms of youth is irrelevant. At this point if you play, you can play."
The U.S. will next take on Germany Sunday morning at 8:10 a.m. ET to wrap up their batch of preliminary games. Canada will also be playing their final game of group play Sunday morning against China.