It took a Jeremy Bracco goal and 25 saves from Joseph Woll to lift Team USA to first place in Group B with their decisive win over Team Canada on Sunday afternoon.
In front of a sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd for the first time in the two Toronto Maple Leafs prospects’ young careers, Woll and Bracco were instrumental in the 3-1 win.
In the second period, with his team already up 2-1, Bracco finished off a Jordan Greenway rebound, beating Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Connor Ingram for his second goal of the tournament.
Woll surrendered just one goal to Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot with his team down two men on an extended penalty kill. Otherwise, Woll was perfect.
For Woll, it was a special moment, one his mom and brother and sister were able to take in from the crowd.
“It’s something I will never forget. It’s definitely up there (as one of his best hockey moments),” Woll said. “That’s probably the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in, even though they weren’t rooting for us. Real special fans here in Toronto.”
With the win, Woll improves to 2-0 on the tournament and secures the net for the start of the elimination round.
“He was kicking all night,” Bracco said of his goalie. “On that first 5-on-3 (for Canada) he really stuck in there. They got a lucky bounce on that goal but he was one of the major keys to the victory.”
Team USA doesn’t want this to be the end, though. The win is just a stepping stone, not the end goal.
“Our goal from day one was to win the group so we’ve accomplished that but we still have three games to win,” Bracco said of the win. “For me and Woll especially, we’re fortunate to play in the building we were drafted in. It’s a second-to-none feeling.”
Moving forward, they’re confident they can stay undefeated.
“We’re feeling real good about ourselves,” Bracco finished.
Team USA will play its quarter-final game in Toronto on January second before the tournament moves to Montreal for the rest of the medal round.
Woll and Bracco aren’t eager to leave the Air Canada Centre just yet. Both players credited Leafs rookie Auston Matthews for paying the team a visit to wish them well and catch up.
“It’s funny, I was talking to my family and it’s probably one of the nicest cities I’ve ever been in,” Woll said. “Just in terms of things to do and the atmosphere in the city. It would be a special place to live.”
And he might get to do just that.