UFA, Russia – It was, as Jake McCabe tweeted, total domination.
The United States dismantled Canada on Thursday in the semifinals of the world junior championship, skating into the gold-medal game with a 5-1 victory over its archrival. McCabe scored the opening two goals in the first period and assisted on the Americans’ third goal as they built a 4-0 lead.
“It feels awesome, especially in such an emotional game against Canada,” said McCabe, selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the 2012 draft. “I’m so proud of our team. This was the best game of the tournament for us.”
The convincing win earned the Americans an appearance in the finals against Sweden, which dropped host Russia, 3-2, in a shootout. The gold-medal game will be televised live at 8 a.m. Saturday on NHL Network. Canada and Russia will compete for bronze at 4 a.m. Saturday.
The Americans outshot Canada, 42-34. McCabe, a sophomore defenseman at the University of Wisconsin, took five shots. He increased his tournament totals to three goals, three assists and a plus-7 rating in six games.
“We played just how we needed to play,” McCabe said. “We kept the puck in their end. We got ahead and stayed out of the box. We used our speed to our advantage.
“They really didn’t know what hit them in the first. You could tell. They were throwing the puck away. We kept them on their heels.”
McCabe, the United States’ captain, opened the scoring with 7:18 gone. He added his second with 3:58 left in the first as the United States outshot Canada, 12-8.
McCabe helped feed John Gaudreau for a goal less than three minutes into the second period to continue the avalanche. Canada yanked starting goaltender and Boston Bruins prospect Malcolm Subban after he surrendered his fourth goal on 16 shots midway through the second.
“We got the start we wanted, scoring the all-important first goal,” U.S. coach and former Sabres defenseman Phil Housley said. “We wanted to dictate the pace of the game early, and we were able to do that and then it carried into the second period.”
U.S. goalie John Gibson stopped 33 of 34 shots, allowing only a short-handed goal by Ty Rattie with four minutes gone in the final period.
The Americans are in the title game for the first time since 2010. Canada, meanwhile, hasn’t earned gold since 2009 after winning five straight.
“We’ve got to come home with a medal,” said Canadian captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers. “It won’t be the one we wanted to come home with, but we’ve got to do it for our country.”
The Swedes will try to repeat after defeating Russia in the semifinal.
Sweden held a 2-1 lead in the third period, but Sabres top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko tied the game with 12:04 remaining to increase his tournament totals to two goals and four assists. The center, selected 12th overall by the Sabres last year, was one of three Russian skaters stopped in the shootout.
Sweden outshot the hosts, 41-29, and built a 2-0 lead in the first period.
“This game could have been the final,” Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg said. “Team USA is another good team. We have to play the same way. We have to play aggressive from the start. We have to play with passion from the start.”
News Sports Reporter John Vogl contributed to this story