PLYMOUTH, Mich. – At some point, nearly everyone at USA Hockey Arena has uttered some form of the phrase "it's summer hockey."
It's an idiom used to describe the play that's not crisp or clean, that has plenty of mistakes to be cleaned and shaped up in the coming months.
Execution aside, there was no "summer hockey" when it came to the intensity of the U.S.-Canada showdown.
Saturday night's finale of the World Junior Summer Showcase had plenty of hits, chirps and pushes after the whistle. It was fast-paced and entertaining. And perhaps a glimpse of what's to come in Buffalo when the city hosts the IIHF World Junior Championship in December and January.
Thanks to four power play goals the U.S. won this summer matchup over Canada, 7-5.
"I totally forgot it was August," American forward Ryan Poheling (Montreal) said. "I think it's more of a pride thing, too. I mean you're playing Canada. You can say 'oh it's just summer' but everyone wants to win that game."
Everyone wants to make an impression, too as coaches and team management begin to formulate their rosters, plans and expectations for December.
Defenseman Adam Fox (Calgary) certainly stood out for the U.S. with a five-point night in the win over Canada and nine points in five games during the showcase.
Buffalo Sabres first-round draft pick Casey Mitteldstadt finished the event with nine points in five games, picking up an assist.
"I think obviously there's a lot of things you can take away, a lot of things you can learn from it," Mitteldstadt said. "I think just coming out and being comfortable and ready to play is the most important thing. Making sure I play my game and make my plays. For me it was obviously a great learning week and now it's time to move forward."
USA Hockey, as well as Team Canada, will now move forward in evaluating the players and watching as their seasons begin with their respective college or junior team.
But roster spots aren't necessarily won during August.
U.S. coach Bob Motzko remembered last year during the summer showcase, feeling he left the event with a few locks. But once they got to camp in December before the World Junior Championships, things had changed.
"We have to be fluid," Motzko said. "We have to let the process play out. This is just one step and it really begins in October, November, December when we're tracking these players.
"The one thing I can tell you, last year there were lot of pieces we felt were concrete. Now, there are so many people that are still in the mix for this. These guys don’t realize how many players are in the mix to make this team."
On Friday, it was a classic U.S.-Canada matchup with goal spurts and rallies and power play goals galore.
It was a fast and furious first period. The U.S. opened the scoring at 5:33 on a power play goal by Joey Anderson (New Jersey). Canada tied the game with its own power play goal, a tally from Jordan Kyrou (St. Louis).
With the teams playing four aside, Canada took the lead when a shot from Givani Smith (Detroit) deflected high and sailed over the head of American goalie Joseph Woll (Toronto). The U.S. responded 43 seconds later when, still playing 4-on-4, Fox tied the game with an assist from Mitteldstadt.
The U.S. took a 4-2 lead in the second with another power play goal by Anderson and a pretty play set up by a break-out pass from Fox as Kailer Yamamoto (Edmonton) slipped by the Canadian defense and buried the breakaway.
Canada scored with 7:15 left in the period, a tally from Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus) to make it a one-goal game.
The U.S. scored a power-play goal just 48 seconds into the third when Fox fed Patrick Harper (Nashville). Poehling (Montreal) added another power-play goal.
Canada rallied with goals by Sam Steel (Anaheim) and Jonah Gadjovich (Vancouver), cutting the Americans' lead to 6-5 with 6:33 left in regulation.
Anderson potted an empty-netter with 47 seconds remaining to seal the win for the U.S.
Sabres 2016 draft pick Cliff Pu played on the second line for Canada, registering one shot on goal while finishing minus-1 for the game.