A well used timeout can pay off in dividends, and I’m sure Team Canada head coach Dominique Ducharme found that out the hard way Saturday afternoon in Toronto.
The United States had just taken advantage of Canada’s abysmal attempt at a penalty kill with Colin White’s opening goal, then Canadian defenceman Philippe Myers was nabbed for kneeing mere seconds later. Despite having a chance to slow things down and discuss where things went wrong, Ducharme opted to hang on to his timeout and paid dearly for the decision.
Arranging a strong penalty kill in a matter of days is arguably one of the tallest tasks facing any coaching staff at a tournament of this calibre, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to halt the momentum and go over just how to stop the potent power play that evidently gave Canada far more than it could handle a few moments earlier. Canada did well to hold their box structure in the previous kill, but that doesn’t account for much when a forward is allowed to sit in the centre of that box and wait patiently for a one-timer from the slot — and that’s exactly what happened on White’s opening marker.
While the Canadian kill managed to adjust to some degree — with the four-man unit leaving the Americans with less time and space to operate — a poor change opened the door for Jordan Greenway to bury Canada in its first two-goal hole of the tournament, and one they wouldn’t climb out of in the ensuing two periods.
While Ducharme’s in-game management could have used a few tweaks, his decision to start Kamloops Blazers goaltender Connor Ingram in favour of Carter Hart — who allowed five goals in his pair of group stage starts — was bold, but strong. While Ingram would likely want one of the early power play markers back, he backed his country valiantly with a 17-save effort.
Saturday’s comedy of errors came to a fitting end when Canada’s comeback attempt was snuffed out by putting a puck in the American net. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada forward Pierre-Luc Dubois responded to a late offside call by stickhandling the puck past US goaltender Joseph Woll after the whistle, and was promptly guided to the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct. But hey, at least this time the penalty kill succeeded, and Ducharme even ended up using his timeout, albeit too late.
The loss doesn’t make Canada’s road to the final especially more difficult, as Matt Barzal and the boys will face off against the struggling Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, but it does enough to plant a seed of doubt into the world’s most dedicated fanbase.
The drama continues Monday.
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