Everyone knew that Friday afternoon’s game would be an unforgettable event in hockey history.
For many of the 44,952 in attendance, they were glad that Casey Mittelstadt would go down as one of its heroes.
Mittelstadt assisted on all three regulation goals in USA’s come-from-behind 4-3 shootout win over Canada in the first-ever outdoor game in World Juniors history.
“Just being here with my teammates and being on my home soil was great,” Mittelstadt said. “Playing in the elements, crowd and everything about the game was amazing. The snow made it that much more fun.”
Mittelstadt now leads the entire tournament with six points in three games. Mittelstadt’s success is not surprising for US head coach Bob Motzko.
“I’m from Minnesota, he’s from Minnesota so I see him do that a lot,” Motzko said. “He’s a talented player.”
Canada started things off by taking advantage of their first power play. Robert Thomas found Cale Makar who fired it 5-hole from the top of the circle for the goal.
The US had their chance a few minutes later but the power-play unit had a tough time moving the puck as the snow started to come down at New Era Field.
The Canadians converted on their second power play of the day after Mikey Anderson went to the box for holding the stick. Sam Steel found linemate and captain Dillon Dube who snipped it top shelf to give Canada the 2-0 lead.
William Lockwood had the best chance for the US with a minute left in the period as he had an open net on the short side but his shot went off the post.
The power play came up empty once again for the US after Canada’s Victor Mete took a penalty with seconds left in the first period.
As the second period started the snow fell harder causing two delays within three minutes of game play, making the US uphill climb even tougher.
However after the game, Brady Tkachuk said the weather didn’t bother him too much.
“(The conditions) weren’t too bad. I thought the ice was really good. The snow coming down and the fans made it exciting,” said Tkachuk, who was moved to the same line as Mittelstadt just before the game. “It was an experience I’ll never forget.”
The Americans finally had their big chance when Canada’s Brett Howden (Cross-checking) and Alex Formenton (Slashing) went to the box to give them a full 5-on-3 chance. The US converted as Mittelstadt found Keiffer Bellows who took a slap shot that went off the post and in.
Unfortunately for the United States, just over a minute later Canada came back and scored as Boris Katchouk knocked the puck in off a shot from Jack Bean. The Canadians took the 3-1 lead to the break.
The situation was reminiscent of Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to Slovakia when the US came back twice from one-goal deficits only for the Slovaks to come right back and score.
During the intermission, the Americans didn’t let angst seep in and still believed that if they stuck to their game plan, they would be able to come back and win.
“We knew it was going to be a storied event,” Tkachuk said. “We had to stick to the game plan and trust the process.”
America fought back in the third and scored on another man-advantage opportunity. Mittelstadt got the puck to Scott Perunovich who put it home. That was followed up 34 seconds later when Mittelstadt found Tkachuk in front of the net to tie it with 14 minutes to go in the third.
The US left Canada only a few chances than had their strongest penalty kill of the day, just a minute after the goal. They took the momentum through the rest of the period staying even keel with Canada taking them to overtime.
Motzko decided to put Mittelstadt and Tkachuck on the ice for the final minute of overtime. The pair had several chances to score but could not put the puck in forcing a shootout.
In the shootout, USA goalie Jake Oettinger stopped both Steel and Thomas in the first two rounds while Bellows and Tkachuk both scored. Mittelstadt went third but could not clinch it as the shot missed to the left. Oettinger made the save on Drake Batherson to win it.
Oettinger made 19 saves in the win.
It was the United States’ fourth-straight win over Canada in the World Juniors.
When Motzko originally heard of the idea of having an outdoor game he wasn’t so big on but now he’s on board.
“At first, I was skeptical about it but now I’m a fan,” Motzko said.
The US is now 2-0-1 in the tournament and will be back in action on Sunday for against Finland for a 4 p.m. faceoff. The game will be played at the Key Bank Center.