MCCLENNON MASTERFUL AS WHITE TOPS U.S. FOR U17 WIN
JASON LA ROSE
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Connor McClennon (Wainwright, Alta./Kootenay, WHL) did it all, scoring a hat trick and adding two assists to lead Canada White to a 5-2 win over the United States on Monday night at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
McClennon had a goal in each period, scoring on the power play in the first, at even strength in the second and shorthanded in the third to help hand the Americans their most lopsided preliminary-round loss since a 4-1 defeat to Quebec in 2004.
The first period was all about the power play for White, and it started early; Jake Neighbours (Airdrie, Alta./Edmonton, WHL) needed just 34 seconds to sweep in a loose puck in front and put the Canadians up 1-0.
Ty Smilanic tied it for the Americans at 6:20, roofing a centering feed from Brett Berard past goaltender Sebastian Cossa (Fort McMurray, Alta./Edmonton, WHL), but Théo Rochette (Donnacona, Que./Chicoutimi, QMJHL) banged in a ricochet off the end glass to put White ahead for good at 17:21.
McClennon added his first goal in the final minute of the opening frame, taking a gorgeous cross-ice feed from Rochette and going upstairs on U.S. netminder Colin Purcell to send White to the dressing room up 3-1.
The Americans pushed to get back into the game in the second period, outshooting White 8-4, but Rochette knocked down a clearing attempt from Purcell and patiently fed McClennon for the 4-1 goal just past the 14-minute mark.
Smilanic got his second of the game in the first minute of the third period to give the U.S. a glimmer of hope, but McClennon finished his hat trick in style midway through the final stanza, racing away on a shorthanded breakaway before deftly chipping a backhand past Purcell to finish the scoring.
The loss ended an impressive run for the Americans, who had not lost a preliminary-round game by more than a single goal in more than a decade, dating back to a 4-2 loss to Germany on Jan. 1, 2008.
The teams will close out the preliminary round Tuesday with plenty to play for in Group A. The Americans are up first, taking on Canada Black (3:30 p.m. AT), followed by Canada White meeting the Czech Republic (7:30 p.m. AT).