Canada White and Canada Black opened up the 2015 World Under-17 Challenge from Dawson Creek, British Columbia with an exciting affair, with Team White coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 5-3 in
The real star of the first period clearly was Jacob McGrath, one of the few OJHLers in the tournament, made some big stops against a very strong Canada White roster. While Ian Scott was rather quiet during the opening 20, McGrath had to make nine saves in the first ten minutes, many of them big ones early. McGrath, the starting goaltender with the St. Michael’s Buzzers in Junior A, came from the Toronto Marlboros minor midget team last year, helping his team win both the OHL Cup and GTHL championship earlier in the spring.
For White, their inability to score on McGrath would hurt them. First, with four minutes to go in the opening frame, Stelio Mattheos would score on a 5-on-3 power-play thanks to a wicked slap shot from just inside the zone, beating Scott below the arm. Then, a minute later, Halifax Mooseheads first-rounder Arnaud Durandeau got one of his own on the powerplay to extend the lead to 2-0 heading into the intermission. It was a big goal for Durandeau, who was named to Black after an injury came up, giving him one of the final spots for Team Canada.
Canada White really needed to get themselves back in the game, and with seven minutes to go in the second, the team finally found the back of the net for the first time. Power-plays clearly dominated the game, and Canada White would get their first goal of the tournament after a pass from Evan Bouchard made it to James Hamblin, who scored from a tough angle to the left of McGrath to cut the deficit to just one.
With 1:31 left in the second, Canada White tied things up at 2-2. This time, the goal wasn’t going to come thanks to a power-play, but AJHL defenseman Ian Mitchell pinched in and turned a Robert Thomas pass into the game-tying goal for White.
Both teams were very hungry to get back on the board, and a goal for both teams helped spice things up. First, with 7:50 complete in the final period of play, Alex-Olivier Voyer came in and scored a short-handed goal for Canada Black, the fourth special teams goal of the game between the two teams. Then, a minute later, Austen Keating scored another power-play goal after taking a pass from White captain James Hamblin, potting a one-timer to quickly close things back up.
All game long, Gabe Vilardi looked like one of the best players on the ice. In fact, he had a good portion of the scoring chances for Canada White, but it was clear that McGrath had his number throughout the contest. Eventually, he’d get the most important goal for Team White, with the Windsor Spitfires forward tipping in a shot from the point to give his team their first lead of the game. The goal would be good enough to hold over for the rest of the game, with an extra goal by Hamblin helping Canada White take their first victory of Group A action thanks to a tremendous comeback effort.
Canada White will have a tough test on Monday when the United States join them on the ice for a 4:30pm EST start. For Black, Canada will have a meeting with the Czech Republic at 9:00pm EST, giving the Czech’s their second Canadian team to play to start the tournament.
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