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Mittelstadt leads U.S. comeback in shootout win over Canada

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Brady Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows found enough traction in the snow to score shootout goals and cap the United States’ 4-3 victory over Canada on Friday in international hockey’s first outdoor game.

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Tkachuk and Ron Perunovich scored 34 seconds apart in the third period to rally the United States from a 3-1 deficit in the world junior championship game played in a steady snowfall at the NFL Buffalo Bills’ New Era Field. Casey Mittlestadt set up all three goals for the United States (2-1), which rebounded from a 3-2 loss to Slovakia less than 24 hours earlier.

Bellows also scored in regulation, and goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 19 shots through overtime and all four he faced in the shootout.

Robert Thomas had a goal and an assist for Canada (2-1), which has lost four straight meeting to the Americans and blown two-goal leads in three straight meetings. That includes a 5-4 shootout loss to the Americans in the gold-medal game played at Montreal in January.

Cale Makar and Dillon Dube also scored, and Carter Hart stopped 32 shots through overtime.

In the only other tournament game, St. Louis Blues draft pick Klim Kostin scored twice in leading Russia (2-1) to a 5-2 win over Belarus (0-3).

The win provided the U.S. an edge over Canada in its bid to finish first atop the Group A standings entering the quarterfinals Tuesday. Both teams have one preliminary game left, with the Americans playing Finland on Saturday, and Canada facing Denmark on Sunday.

Bellows scored on the Americans’ first shootout chance by snapping a shot through Hart’s legs. Then Tkachuk scored by firing a shot in the top right corner.

The game attracted a crowd of 44,592 in more than doubling the world juniors’ attendance record of 20,380 set during Canada’s 2009 gold-medal victory over Sweden at Ottawa. The crowd on Friday appeared evenly split with American and Canadian fans, many of whom spent much of the game standing. As night fell, a red glow emanated from the middle section of the stadium, where rows of heaters hang above the seats.

The game-time temperature was in the mid-teens Fahrenheit (about -9 Celsius).

Flurries began falling during the pre-game national anthems, and the snow fell harder as the game progressed. It began falling so heavily that the surface had to be shoveled at each commercial break starting late in the second period. Work crews filled several wheelbarrows full of snow, which were dumped onto a pile that grew to about seven feet behind the east end of the rink.

The snow eventually played havoc with the play, making it difficult to complete passes or clear the puck, which became a factor on Thomas’ goal which put the Canadians up 3-1 with 2:21 left in the second period.

Oettinger stopped Boris Katchouk on a breakaway, which led to a scramble in front. U.S. defenseman Josh Norris cleared the puck out of the crease, but the puck stopped just inside the blue line. Canadian defenseman Jake Bean corralled the puck and spun around to get off a shot deflected by Thomas in front.

Back came the Americans, who also trailed 2-0 after Canada capitalized on two first-period power-play chances.

Perunovich cut the lead to 3-2 from the slot by capping a give-and-go passing play with Mittelstadt with 13:51 left. Mittlestadt, the Buffalo Sabres first-round pick, then set up Tkachuk in front for the tying goal by gathering a loose puck behind the net after Canadian defenseman Kale Clague lost his stick.

Both teams no longer have to deal with the elements with the remainder of the tournament returning indoors at Buffalo’s downtown KeyBank Center.

The third period was played in 10-minute halves, with the teams switching ends as is traditional during outdoor games. The 5-minute overtime period was also stopped at the 2:30 mark, when the teams also switched ends and the surface shoveled and cracks in the ice patched.

Several Canadian-flag-waving fans took advantage of the extended by dancing shirtless in one of the aisles.

The Americans wore special jerseys with large numbers on the front and back, similar to those worn by the Bill, including the team’s blue colors.

In the earlier game, Artur Kayumov and German Rubtsov had a goal and assist each for Russia, which won its second straight since a tournament-opening 5-4 loss to the Czech Republic. Alexei Polodyan also scored as Russia clinched a berth in the quarterfinal round Tuesday.

For Belarus, Sergei Pishuk had a goal and assist and Dmitri Deryabin also scored. Belarus closes the preliminary round against the Czech Republic on Saturday and is in jeopardy of finishing last in five-team Group B standings.

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