Frequent contributor der Eishockeyzuschauer takes a look at today’s Canada/USA match, and what it might mean to the Flyers and Phantoms.
If potential future Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Carter Hart cannot handle the enormous pressure of playing at the annual IIHF World Junior Championship then how the youngster would fare on behalf of the Hamilton Street Heroes at the cauldron that is the PPL Center with American Hockey League powers such as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears skating about must be seriously called into question ….. (photo courtesy Elena Rusko / TASS news agency)
Less than twenty-four hours after the out of form Philadelphia Flyers finally benched slumping 19-year-old media darling Travis Konecny, the physically over-matched rookie right wing who has now gone 22 consecutive National Hockey League games without finding the back of the net despite the benefit of having spent this whole time skating on one of the club’s top two scoring lines, seemingly unstoppable Canada will face off against the still unbeaten United States on the final day of round robin competition at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships in a New Year’s Eve clash which has far more than continental bragging rights at stake.
Also up for grabs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto this afternoon will be first place in Group B and the accompanying right to what should be, at least in theory, an easier match in the quarterfinal round against the fourth place team from Group A ,which, at this point in time, could still be any one of three countries — Switzerland, Denmark or the Czech Republic. Furthermore, from the Canadian perspective as reported by the Toronto Sun newspaper on Friday evening, this upcoming battle between the Americans and the Canucks gives the host nation at this year’s WJC a chance at redemption. As far as the United States is concerned, after having defeated Canada in dramatic fashion at the 2016 WJC in Helsinki last winter, the precious opportunity to make history is now at hand.
Aside from the simple fact that Canada hold a decidedly lopsided lead versus the United States in the all-time series (32 wins against just eight losses with three draws) at the annual WJC tournament which was officially recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation beginning in 1977, the bottom line is that the underdog Americans have never ever beaten the Canadians in a meaningful WJC contest in consecutive seasons. It is true that the U.S. downed Canada 5-2 in Winnipeg at the 1999 IIHF WJC twelve months after having blanked their great rival to the north 3-0 at the 1998 IIHF WJC meeting in Hameenlinna, Finland. The latter of these two matches, however, had been a so-called “placement game” between a pair of countries who had already been eliminated from medal contention at that particular tournament; the practice of staging meaningless matches for the purposes of final rankings has since been abolished.
Konecny and Lehigh Valley Phantoms rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim, both of whom were first round NHL Draft picks of the Philadelphia Flyers, were on the 2016 Canadian world junior team which lost to the Americans 4-2 last season after conceding two lightning strikes just 41 seconds apart all with less than three and a half minutes remaining to play.
Whether or not Canada suffer another late-game collapse again this time around could very well depend upon potential future Lehigh Valley Phantoms shot-stopper Carter Hart, the 18-year-old netminder who was the second round pick (# 48 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2016 NHL Draft and currently plays in the Western Hockey League for the Everett Silvertips. Hart appeared to be extremely nervous while surrendering three goals despite facing only seventeen shots against Russia in the Canadians’ opener at the WJC this term and also allowed a pair of goals against an underwhelming Latvian outfit; the .881 save percentage that Hart currently shows is just not impressive. The other alternative for Canada would be Connor Ingram, the 19-year-old goaltender who was the third round choice (# 88 overall) of the Tampa Bay Lightning at that same 2016 NHL Draft this past summer — the potential future Syracuse Crunch puck tamer Ingram needed to make just six saves to earn his shutout versus Slovakia in a contest that saw Canada equal a team record for the fewest number of shots permitted that was originally established against lightweight Norway thirty-four years ago at the 1983 WJC affair.
From the Lehigh Valley Phantoms perspective, the one player to watch on the United States squad would be Tanner Laczynski, who was the sixth round pick (# 169 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2016 NHL Draft. The 19-year-old freshman for the Ohio State Buckeyes has been averaging a little less than twelve minutes per game operating as the fourth line center for the Americans. Laczynski notched a goal in the win over Slovakia and also assisted on the game-winner against the Russians.
Categories: Phantoms Hockey