We're hours away from the gold medal border battle between Canada and the United States at the World Junior Championship, so today on Top 5 Tuesday we'll take a look at 5 things to watch out for.
5. Cam Fowler Vs. Taylor Hall
Last year the focus in the gold medal game, and throughout the tournament, was John Tavares and Victor Hedman battling for the number one draft position. This year Hall and Fowler came in 1 and 3 respectively according to most scouting agency rankings. With Tyler Seguin not here, it could push Fowler in the number 2 spot, and with a strong gold medal game, who knows he could inch closer to the top spot.
"That's just something I try to keep in the back of my mind. I think if you start thinking about the draft and where you might end up, that's when the nerves kick in and you start gripping the stick to tight," explained Fowler the day before the game. "I understand it's a big tournament for scouts to watch you, but you just have to try and play your game."
It's a pretty similar attitude for Hall as well.
"I was just hoping to do as well as I can, so far this year has been great for me. I'm where I want to be and if I can (the gold medal game) then I think scouts will take that into consideration."
4. Jack Campbell or Mike Lee
Most expect Mike Lee to get the nod in net for team USA, after all he has experience and age on his side, however Campbell who should be the first goalie chosen at this June's draft did play well against the Canadians in the round robin. USA Head Coach was planning on telling his goalies who was starting last night.
Lee who plays for St. Cloud State does have the benefit of beating a Canadian team in Canada in a gold medal game of an international event. It happened in the final of the World Junior A Challenge last year in Camrose, and while tonight's game is a whole different animal, it is something Lee can draw upon.
"You can compare it, you're playing for your country the same way, I was fortunate to play against Canada in a championship game and come out on top."
3. The Windsor War
The Spitfires have 4 players suiting up for Canada, while the Americans have 1, along with goaltender Jack Campbell who will be in Windsor next year. So who has the advantage? TPS asked American blueliner Cam Fowler if he knows how to get Taylor Hall, Greg Nemisz, Adam Henrique or Ryan Ellis off their game.
"With players like that, I don't think there's a whole lot you can do to get in their head. A lot of those guys have been in situations like this before, and the thing that makes them go is a love for the game. They want to win just as badly as anybody I've played with" said Fowler.
So what about him. Will the Windsor 4 be able to get Fowler off his game?
"I'm not sure, I don't think so, I'd like to think I'm a great competitor to. I try not to let the talking on the ice get into my head, because that's going to happen it's Canada-US."
Hall says things have been all business between the Spitfire teammates and they can relive the tournament when they get back to Windsor.
"I've seen him (Fowler) once in the tournament, I just said hi to him, I didn't talk to him at all. I'm going to treat him like just another USA opponent and play him as hard as I can."
2. Which team handles the crowd better
The roof will likely blow off the CUC tonight and whichever team deals with the noise and atmosphere best will win. Things were loud to start on New Years Eve, but the Americans quieted when they went up 4-2. However one Canadian goal brought fans back louder then ever and the Americans seemed to struggle after that.
U.S.A head coach Dean Blais says it's one of many things his team learned from their first meeting with Canada.
"We've worked hard for everything we've got and we've gotten better over the course of the tournament. Whether or not to upset Canada or not we don't know but we're glad we're here."
However the pro Canada crowd could make the home team a tad nervous. That's where Canadian players who experienced the home town crowed last year in Ottawa will be key. Players like my pick for Canadian MVP Jordan Eberle.
"We're the leaders and I think guys are getting antsy and excited, but the one thing I've learned is you can't let your emotions get the better of you. You gotta be able to sit down and breathe and realize it's just another game but obviously it's not we're going for a gold medal."
1. No Travis Hamonic
Team USA has speed to burn and skill to spare up front. On New Years Eve Canada had a hard time slowing them down early and wil have to do it without the best defencemane in the Western Hockey League Travis Hamonic. The Moose Jaw Warrior rearguard was drilled from behind against Switzerland and separated his shoulder. Now Canada has to make a decision. Do you play with 5? Put Brandon McMillan back on defence? Or give Spokane's Jared Cowen more icetime? Cowan struggled mightily against the US on New Years Eve and some think he might still be dealing with a knee injury that derailed his season last year.
Head Coach Willie Desjardins isn't worried about Cowan's confidence. "He's a good player, he's played well in this tournament before."
Desjardins also hinted that McMillan could see some time on the back end, which is nothing new for him, as he did the same thing for the Kelowna Rockets.
"I played in some big games, all through the playoffs and Memorial Cup so if they call on me I'll be ready."
At Canada's practice Monday, Cowen was taking a regular turn with Calvin de Haan.