BEIJING – Andy Miele had a goal and an assist as the United States beat Canada 4-2 in men’s hockey at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday.
Ben Meyers, Brendan Brisson and Kenny Agostino also scored for the U.S. (2-0). Strauss Mann stopped 35 shots for the Americans, who sit atop Group A and are in the driver’s seat for an automatic berth in the quarterfinals.
Mat Robinson and Corban Knight replied scored for Canada (1-1), which got 23 saves from a shaky Edward Pasquale.
The countries played for the first time at the Olympics since the 2014 semifinals, when Canada’s star-studded roster of NHLers ground out a 1-0 victory on the way to winning gold in Sochi.
Canadian head coach Claude Julien was behind the bench after rejoining the team Thursday. The 61-year-old broke a rib and suffered a punctured lung in a sledding accident where he hit a tree during the team’s training camp in Switzerland. The NHL coach of the year in 2009 was initially unable to travel to China, but was subsequently cleared to fly and watched Thursday’s 5-1 victory over Germany.
The U.S. thumped host China 8-0 the same night.
Canada closes out round-robin play Sunday against the Chinese, while the Americans are set to meet Germany.
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 Matty Beniers (second overall, Seattle Kraken) suited up for the U.S.
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, which started at 12:10 p.m. local time Saturday – Friday night back home.
Canada opened the scoring at 1:24 of the first when Robinson’s innocent-looking shot from the sideboards found its way past Mann, who sat out against China.
The U.S. responded just 70 seconds later when Miele, the American captain, moved in on a 2-on-1 and roofed a backhand shortside on his team’s first shot.
Canada looked to keep up the physical play that had Germany on its heels in the opener, but the U.S. was more than willing to push back at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium, which hosted artistic gymnastics, trampoline and handball at the 2008 Summer Games.
Pasquale was at full stretch to deny Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Nick Abruzzese later in the period, but the U.S. would eventually nudge in front.
Montreal Canadiens draft pick Sean Farrell, who had three goals and two assists against China, faked a shot and fed Meyers, who beat Pasquale for a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
McTavish fired wide on a 2-on-1 early in the second before a disastrous Pasquale miscue gifted the Americans a 3-1 advantage when Nick Shore stole the puck behind Canada’s net and fed Brisson in front at 2:37.
A dazed Canada finally responded with some quality shifts midway through the period, and Knight, who’s third in scoring in the Russian-based KHL, beat Mann on a shorthanded 2-on-1 at 14:13 with Staal off in the box for elbowing.
The Canadians got their first power play late in the period, with Eric O’Dell tipping a Maxim Noreau shot off the crossbar and Josh Ho-Sang unable to make good contact on a bouncing puck with Mann at his mercy.
The U.S. restored its two-goal lead at 6:13 of the third when Noreau turned the puck over inside the Canadian blue line. Miele left it for Agostino, who blasted a shot that leaked through an unscreened Pasquale.
The Canadians got a two-man advantage for 31 seconds with 4:37 left in regulation, but couldn’t find a way past Mann, who responded well after those early jitters, as the U.S. picked up a massive victory in Group A.
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.
This report by The Canadian Press was first reported Feb. 12, 2022.
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