Historic Canada-U.S. game was a classic, even if Canadian fans didn’t like result

The snow piled up, the flurries made visibility a challenge and the temperature was a chilly minus-10 C.

Oh yeah, traffic was a nightmare, too.

Yes, braving the brutal mood Mother Nature was in on Friday afternoon in Orchard Park, N.Y., was no way to spend three-and-a-half hours outside.

That is, unless you’re a hearty hockey fan. Then, you wanted to witness history, you wanted to party and you didn’t care if Canada or the United States won the first outdoor game in world junior tournament history.

The U.S. trailed by two goals in the 3rd period, but rallied to beat Canada 4-3 in a shootout at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. 2:17

The tournament-record 44,592 fans at New Era Field, home of the NFL Buffalo Bills, had blast and so did the players, for the most part.

The Americans scored a come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory in a similar fashion to their shootout win in the gold-medal final against Canada a year ago.

The Stars and Stripes fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 on Friday but rallied for the win less than 24 hours after they were stunned with a 3-2 loss to Slovakia indoors.

Team USA players celebrate their 4-3 shootout victory over Canada on Friday. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

This defeat hasn’t hurt the Canadians chances to finish atop their five-team pool. All they need is a win over Denmark in their preliminary-round finale on Saturday.

Canada knows where it went wrong against the Americans. Canadian forwards Alex Formenton and Maxime Comtois took a couple of dumb-dumb penalties that led to American power-play goals.

No lead is safe in junior hockey. But considering the snowy elements, a 3-1 lead entering the third period should have been good enough for Canada to cruise to its third consecutive win. The Canadians, however, messed it up and, who knows, they may be better for it when quarter-finals roll around on Tuesday.

They also may want to bone up on their shootouts. They went 0-for-5 in their gold-medal shootout against the U.S. a year ago and were 0-for-4 against the Americans’ backup goalie, Jake Oettinger, on Friday.

Canada’s Boris Katchouk plays the puck under snow and darkening skies. (Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

For a game hampered by the conditions, this still was an entertaining affair.

There was plenty of skill on display and the teenagers found ways to make it a game, unlike most of the outdoor affairs contested in the NHL. The players appeared to embrace the setting.

The Americans, who had special Buffalo Bills-type sweaters made with numbers on both front and back, had every reason to simply go out for a skate after they fell behind 2-0. They appeared to be still in disbelief after their Slovakian shocker, but as the flurries became heavier the Americans got into the spirit of things.

It didn’t seem to matter to the players that there were lengthy delays as the maintenance crews cleared off the snow during television timeouts. At one point late in the second period, I counted five wheelbarrows and six garbage containers full of snow being carted off from one such timeout of shoveling.

The fans also didn’t seem to mind. This was a party. For scores of Canadian fans who made the drive from places like Hamilton, Oakville, Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Mississauga and Toronto, the drive took forever.

Canadian fans seem impervious to the cold as they cheer on their team. (Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)

A transportation truck caught on fire on Friday morning near Grimsby on the Queen Elizabeth Highway, about 70 kilometres from the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, Ont., where most people going to Orchard Park would have crossed the border.

The QEW was closed for a spell and then limited lanes were reopened. The lines at U.S. customs were long.

So maybe it was fitting this historic game elapsed into overtime and then a shootout. It enabled the late-arriving crowd to get their money’s worth and not have to brave the elements longer than necessary.

Still, this was an outdoor classic.

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