Team Canada Handled their Goalie Situation Well at World Juniors

Sep 29, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Canada fans cheer during the third period in game two of the World Cup of Hockey final against Team Europe at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Canada fans cheer during the third period in game two of the World Cup of Hockey final against Team Europe at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite not achieving the result they were hoping for, Team Canada deserves credit for the way they handled their goalie situation.

Team Canada lost the World Juniors to the USA in heartbreaking fashion, in a game that came down to a shootout. Whether or not it should ever come down to a shootout — in my opinion, not in a medal game — is a different debate and not one that I think that has much merit on the opposing side. Team Canada should have won the game before it came down to the shootout, but there’s no use crying over spilled milk. It spilled and Canada lost. Okay, so what then?

Well I’m not one to give out consolation ribbons, but I think that even despite the loss, Team Canada coach Dominique Ducharme and his staff deserve kudos for how they handled the most controversial and debated issue perhaps of the entire World Junior tournament. Not about the spotty attendance or the inflated ticket prices, but the Team Canada goalie situation. It was handled perfectly.

Carter or Connor? Hart or Ingram?

Canada begun the tournament facing formidable foe, Russia. Carter Hart got the starting nod to man the goal for Canada. The team won 5-3, but the performance in goal was underwhelming. Three goals allowed on 17 shots? Meh, but he won so deserves another game.

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Next game: Slovakia. We are fair Canadians, so let’s give Connor Ingram a go. The team won 5-0, so a shutout looks great until you see that Ingram was barely tested with six shots.

Latvia appeared next on the schedule. This game looked like it would be very similar to the last one Canada played, so Ducharme could go either way with his goalie pick. Ingram just had a laugher and couldn’t prove much against the Slovaks, so seeing as this game looked similar, Hart should get a chance at a shutout. He did not get it though, as Canada gave up 25 shots (much ado with eight power plays against), and Hart gave up two goals.

Next, the big game against the United States on New Year’s Eve. Canada could really go either way again, but Ingram was selected as he was yet to give up a goal. Canada found itself shorthanded early and paid for it. Ingram allowed two power play goals in the opening minutes, but he could hardly be faulted for being shorthanded. Ingram then found himself and kept his team in it, allowing just one goal after six minutes in. However, Canada fell 3-1.

The performance over the final 54 minutes earned Ingram the start in the first elimination game against the Czechs. As Hart did in the first game of the tournament, he wasn’t great statistically allowing three goals on 19 shots, but he looked decent in key spots and Canada rallied for the win.

Success in an elimination game pretty much established Ingram as “the guy” for Canada going forward and he got the call against the high-powered Swedes. However, Ingram allowed two quick goals and prompted Ducharme to make the quick call to go back to Hart. It was a move as much for Ingram’s non-performance as much as a loud wake-up call for the team.

Hart answered the bell with a loud ring of relief for Canada. In just over 50 minutes, Hart came in and closed the door and shutout the Swedes from that moment on, making 28 saves. Team Canada felt the boost and took the lead in the second and never looked back, earning the spot in the gold medal game, and Hart took back his spot as Canada’s lead netminder, a well-earned spot.

Ducharme rightly rewarded Hart with the crease in the gold medal game against the United States. Seeing Ingram got the start (loss) in the team’s previous matchup, Hart would now have his chance against Team USA.

It looked good going into the first intermission, as Canada led 2-0. The Americans fought back though, scoring twice on goals not of Hart’s fault in the least.

Canada re-established its two-goal lead in the third and seemed things were in hand for the Canadians. But Team USA stormed right back yet again with a pair, both goals not of Hart’s flaws.

A Canadian power play with less than 10 minutes left – including a give-and-go open-net fanned-on tap-in – another advantage midway through overtime, and a puck slid by Mitchell Stephens just wide of the post in the dying seconds of overtime could not propel Canada for the win before the nail-biting-off shootout.

Hart or Ingram in the shootout? It seems that the race is that close to look at individual shootout statistics especially since the Americans, who just defeated the Russians in a shootout in the prior match, are a seasoned-shootout squad, but it’s irrelevant. Hart had earned the net by this time.

If anyone said Hart would go 4-for-5 against the practiced American shooters, even the most patriotic and optimistic Americans would admit defeat in such circumstance. But Canada failed to score just one time on US goalie Tyler Parsons, and Carter Hart, who gave his team an exceptional chance to win, had to settle for silver.

Canada has won 16 gold medals at the World Junior Hockey Championship, the most of any nation. “We respect the heck out of them,” said Team USA coach Bob Motzko.

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However, twice erasing two-goal deficits, the Americans were golden at this tournament. This ascends the United States’ count to four golds. Speaking of Team Canada, Motzko said, “we’ve learned from the best.”

Despite not winning, well done to Ducharme and Team Canada on how they handled the goaltending conundrum. The hot potato was passed with spot-on timing.