Junior hockey worlds match between U.S., Canada draws record 45,000

NHL News

ORCHARD PARK, New York — Amid freezing temperatures and snowfall from start to finish, a record 44,592 people attended Friday’s International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship preliminary-round game between the United States and Canada at New Era Field.

It shattered the previous record-high attendance for a World Junior Championship of 20,380 in Ottawa in the 2009 gold-medal game between Canada and Sweden.

A crowd of mixed national allegiances witnessed the U.S. stage a comeback from two separate two-goal deficits to win the game 4-3 in a shootout in the first ever IIHF World Junior Championship game to be played outdoors.

“Yeah, it’s a tough pill to swallow once again losing to the Americans in the shootout,” Canadian forward Michael McLeod said. “The only good thing is that this is round robin.”

USA goalie Jake Oettinger did not allow a goal in the shootout, while Kieffer Bellows and Brady Tkachuk each scored as the Americans topped Canada in a rematch of last year’s gold-medal game, also won by Team USA in a shootout.

“It just made it better with the snow coming down and the fans’ excitement. You could definitely feel it,” Tkachuk said of a game played with snow persistently falling from the opening faceoff. “We knew we were taking it to them in the second and third period, and Coach was saying, if one goes in, two go in.”

Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead after power-play goals in the first period from Cale Makar and Dillon Dube.

The Americans got one back with a power-play goal of their own from Bellows in the second, but Canada answered 72 seconds later, after a puck deflected off of Canadian winger Boris Katchouk and past USA goalie Jake Oettinger.

In the third period, Team USA struck twice in 34 seconds to wipe out a 3-1 deficit, with defenseman Scott Perunovich and projected 2018 first-round pick Tkachuk adding goals. Canada has lost four straight meetings to the United States.

“Last year doesn’t matter at all,” said Canadian goalie Carter Hart, who stopped 32 shots through overtime Friday. “Tomorrow, we get the chance to finish in first place, so that’s what’s on our mind’s now.”

A significant traffic accident in Ontario led to heavy traffic and long wait times at both the U.S.-Canada border and outside of New Era Field led to a late-arriving crowd. With the end zones and a portion of lower seats tarped off, capacity for this game was set at 47,000. Capacity for NFL games at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, is 71,870.

All other games for the 2018 World Junior Championship, which runs through Jan. 5, are set to take place at the KeyBank Center, home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, and the adjacent HarborCenter.

In the only other tournament game, St. Louis Blues draft pick Klim Kostin scored twice in leading Russia (2-1) to a 5-2 win over Belarus (0-3).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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