The United States took home gold on Tuesday, January 5th, when they shutout Team Canada 2-0 in Edmonton to clinch their fifth World Junior Championship. Hockey fans all across America rejoiced all night long, and hockey social media was one giant party, unless you are from Canada.
Team Canada overview
When the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship (WJC) opened training camp back in December, Team Canada's 2021 team was heralded by many as possibly the best WJC roster to ever take the ice in this tournament. In the eye's of the hockey elite, no one stood a chance against the Canadians this year.
Canada probably would have been a lot more scary going into the championship game, had they been able to field a few key players that were missing from their roster. It was widely suspected that Quebec native, Alexis Lafrenière, would suit up for Team Canada since, after all, he probably would have been the best player on the ice for Canada, and he is already a two-time World Junior Champion with Team Canada. But the New York Rangers, who selected Lafrenière with the first overall pick in the 2020 NHL draft, were not willing to let their newest top prospect risk injury in the tournament, especially since the championship game took place a week before the Rangers are set to open up their regular season against the New York Islanders on January 14th.
Next up on the list of things to go wrong for Team Canada: On December 23rd, just two days before the tournament was to commence, Canada's captain, and Chicago Blackhawks 2019 third overall draft pick, Kirby Dach, suffered a wrist injury when he collided with Ilya Safonov of Team Russia during an exhibition game. It was announced that Dach will be sidelined for four to five months, which means he'll be missing almost all of the NHL season for the rebuilding Chicago Blackhawks.
Canada would prove to be just fine, however, as they dominated Team Germany 16-2 in the second night of tournament play on December 26th, and going undefeated all the way through to the championship game. Canada shutout the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal, 3-0, and then shutout the Russians in the semifinal, 5-0, leading them to the gold-medal game.
Team USA overview
Team USA didn't have as easy a route to the championship game as Canada did. After losing to Germany in a Christmas Day game, 5-3, the United States looked like it was lacking the star power of teams like Canada, Finland, and Russia. Anaheim Ducks prospect and New York native, Trevor Zegras, was possibly the best player in this tournament, catching the attention of top NHL talent such as Toronto Maple Leafs' center and California native, Auston Matthews
The United States defeated Slovakia in the quarterfinal, 5-2, and then took care of business in a close nail-biter against Finland in the semifinal, where the game seemed to be destined for overtime. After Finland came back from a two goal deficit with 3:43 left in the game to tie it up at three, Los Angeles Kings prospect, Arthur Kaliyev, came through for the Americans, and promptly untied the game with 1:16 left in the third quarter.
After 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists in the tournament, Trevor Zegras would be named MVP of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
Zegras wasn't alone in bringing the U.S. the gold, though. Other notable USA participants include:
Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) - 140 saves, 93.9% save percentage, 1.63 goals against average, shut out Team Canada in championship game
Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings) - 8 points, 5 assists, 3 goals, +8 plus/minus, 1 game winning goal
Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) - 8 points, 5 assists, 3 goals, +9 plus/minus, 24 shots on goal, 1 game winning goal
Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild) - 7 points, 2 assists, 5 goals, 22 shots on goal, 3 power play goals
John Farinacci (Arizona Coyotes) - 7 points, 2 assists, 5 goals +8 plus/minus, 25 shots on goal
Bobby Brink (Philadelphia Flyers) - 6 points, 4 assists, 2 goals, +8 plus/minus, 1 game winning goal
Cam York (Philadelphia Flyers) - 6 points, 5 assists, 1 goal, Team USA Captain
Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) - 5 points, 3 assists, 2 goals, 24 shots on goal, 1 game winning goal
Brett Berard (New York Rangers) - 5 points, 4 assists, 1 goal, +8 plus/minus
The Americans got off to a quick start, when Alex Turcotte scored the game's first goal with 6:35 left in the first period. This was the first 5-on-5 goal that Team Canada gave up in the entire tournament, something that Team USA made sure to emphasize on before the game started. United States goaltender, Spencer Knight, was lights out against Canada, standing on his head for almost the entirety of the game to make sure that Canada stayed off the board. Trevor Zegras scored the second goal of the game a minute and a half into the second period, when he snuck a backhander through the confused Canadian goaltender, Devon Levi, after he lost track of the puck behind his own net. The third period was a race against the clock for the Americans. No goals were scored, but Canada did put up a valiant effort, almost cutting the lead in half a few times; Canada ultimately came up short, and the USA celebrated on Canadian ice, winning the game 2-0, capturing their fifth World Junior Championship, their fourth in the last 11 years. Team USA is now 4-1 against Canada in the WJC.
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