It was fitting, perhaps, that a game featuring Canada vs. Canada would be so evenly-matched.
With fans at the RBC Centre cheering goals scored by both teams, more or less evenly, Canada White topped Canada Black, 5-4 in overtime in World Under-17 Hockey Challenge action, Monday.
The OT win garnered Canada White two points (a regulation win is worth three) while Canada Black picked up a point for the overtime loss. It was the first points of the tournament for both teams.
Nicolas Hague, a Junior B defenceman from Kitchener, scored the winning goal in overtime, blasting home a shot from the point. It came shortly after Canada White had missed out on a chance to score on a four-on-three overtime power play, with Team Black killing off the two-minute minor.
Monday night's contest started out as a wildly wide-open affair with Team White outshooting Black 15-8 in the first period and leading 3-2 after 20 minutes. Canada Black had actually held a 2-0 lead on goals by Zach Poirier and Tyler Benson. But Canada White answered with three goals in three-and-a-half minutes to take a 3-2 lead.
The teams traded single goals in the second, with Johnathan Ang scoring for White and Pierre-Luc Dubois for Black.
Jordan Kyrou of the Sarnia Sting assisted on Ang's power play goal. The presence of Kyrou -- and Sting teammate Jordan Chychrun, before he was knocked out of the tournament with an injury -- on Canada White makes that squad the closest thing to a home team that the tournament has.
Zach Poirier's second goal of the game, for Team Black, tied the score at 4-4 and led to overtime.
Winning goalie Ryan Kubic stopped 23 of 27 shots and, although that doesn't sound too impressive statistically, he was outstanding at times. Canada Black goalie Reilly Pickard surrendered five goals on 33 shots.
Canada White coach Sheldon Keefe called the victory, a big confidence builder.
"It wasn't a perfect game, but we'll take it," said Keefe. "We need the win, we need the points so we're happy with it."
Keefe said the wide open first period was the result of turnovers and some loose play in the defensive zone, by the two teams.
"It got better as the game went on, although there were still a couple of errors," that led to goals, added Keefe.
Keefe added the loss of Chychrun is "a big blow," but, he added, the defenceman is still with the club and offering some strong moral support to his teammates.
In the third, and final, games of the preliminary round for each team, Tuesday, Canada White will play Russia at RBC Centre while Canada Black faces Finland at Sarnia Arena and Canada Red will face the USA in Lambton Shores. All games start at 7 p.m.