Team USA comes back to beat Canada at outdoor world juniors game Evidence of the United States continued growth as a hockey power is everywhere. Record numbers play hockey in America. The U.S. women dominate the world championships. Team USA has won more golds at the world junior championships over the past eight seasons than any other country. About 28% of NHL players are now American. The Americans (2-1) have come a long way since the late 1960s, when the NHL had more American teams than American players. And their strength was reaffirmed again Friday when the Americans erased 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to defeat the Canadians 4-3 in a shootout in snowy conditions at the first outdoor game in world junior championships history. Buffalo Sabres prospect Casey Mittelstadt keyed the American victory with three assists and showed Buffalo fans why the Sabres may ask him to leave the University of Minnesota as soon as possible. He leads the tournament with six points in three games. “You have to face adversity and you have to stick together and we did that,” Mittelstadt told reporters. Mittelstadt set up winger Brady Tkachuk for the tying goal less than seven minutes into the third period in front of a WJC-record 44,592 fans at New Era Field, the home stadium of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. The Americans wore Bills-style jerseys. It was a huge win for the Americans, but not because it puts them closer to another gold medal — it doesn’t. This is a preliminary-round game and both Canada and Team USA still have a shot at winning a gold medal. But this was a significant win because it helps the Americans move past Thursday’s stunning loss to Slovakia. It also puts them back on the path toward winning back-to-back WJC titles for the first time in the country’s history. “We definitely came together,” Tkachuk said. “We are family now.”. Although the Americans are no longer intimidated by Canada’s long tradition of international success, wins against Canada are still to be savored. Even though Team USA has won more golds at the WJC than Canada in recent years, there is still always a sense that Canada comes into their meetings with an advantage. There is always a feeling that Canadians can find a way to pull out wins against Team USA. Because we are talking teenage players who have inconsistency built into their games, this has always been a compliment to Canada more than Team USA’s failure. But through the years, the Americans learned from the Canadians, and now it feels as if the Americans believe they will find a way to win. Last year, they defeated the Canadians in a shootout to win the gold medal. It seemed fitting that the shootout heroes this year were Kieffer Bellows and Tkachuk, whose fathers were proven NHL goal scorers. They grew up around the game and they understand the concept of mental toughness. They appreciate what it takes to succeed when the pressure seems overwhelming. Bellows and Tkachuk scored on the Americans’ first two attempts in the shootout and Dallas Stars first-round draft pick Jake Oettinger stopped four consecutive Canadian shooters to preserve the win. Tkachuk, the son of former NHL star Keith Tkachuk and brother of Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk, said the game was the most fun he ever had. Wheelbarrows full of snow were scraped off the ice at stoppages. The ice quality was poor, but the excitement level was high. “It was unbelievable,” Brady Tkachuk said. “The crowd. The snow. It lived up to the hype. Better than I expected.”. It’s still likely that Canada will finish ahead of Team USA in pool play, meaning Canada will theoretically have an easier path to the gold medal. These two teams could meet again in the medal round. “We didn’t lose the tournament (Thursday with the loss to Slovakia),” U.S. Coach Bob Motzko said. “And we didn’t win it today.”.