The United States found the elusive ingredient to win the world junior men’s hockey championship.A smaller, younger, less experienced American team than in previous years, but one that had teamwork and trust in each other, edged Canada 6-5 in overtime Tuesday to foil the host country’s bid to win a record sixth straight title.
John Carlson scored the winner with a wrist shot at 4:21 of overtime. It was the second goal of the game for Carlson, on loan to the U.S. team by his American Hockey League team in Hershey.
Carlson told TSN he gave his teammates a pep talk going into overtime. “I said ‘If you guys were to tell me at the beginning of the tournament that we’d be here right now going into overtime right now for the gold medal, anyone in the locker-room would have taken it,’ Carlson said. ”So I think the camaraderie really helped and we really pulled together there and squeaked out a win.“
The U.S. got some revenge for a 5-4 shootout loss against Canada on New Year’s Eve that gave the hosts a bye to the semifinals. The Americans also led that game by two goals before allowing Canada to send it to overtime.
“They’re a feisty team, they’re a great team and it was unbelievable playing them on New Year’s Eve and now here it was just play our game,” Carlson said. “We know they’re going to get chances and score goals, that’s how good they are. We just needed to play our game and tonight it worked out.”
Tuesday’s final was the first between the two countries since 2004, when the U.S. came from behind to beat Canada in Helsinki, Finland, for the Americans’ first gold medal in the tournament. Canada had won it every year after that until Tuesday.
Chris Kreider, Jordan Schroeder, Jerry D’Amigo and U.S. captain Derek Stepan also scored for the U.S., who had underachieved in this tournament in recent years with bigger names and more first-round NHL draft picks in the lineup.
The U.S. held a selection camp prior to this tournament for the first time instead of simply naming 22 players to its team.
Canada has held selection camps for decades and the practice seemed to help the U.S. as they played a more cohesive team game in this tournament and pulled the most important win.
Canada never led in the game, but Jordan Eberle of the Regina Pats scored a pair of goals in the final three minutes to tie the game and force a 20-minute overtime.
Luke Adam of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Windsor Spitfires teammates Greg Nemisz and Taylor Hall also scored for Canada in front of a disappointed sellout crowd of 15,171 at Credit Union Centre.
Eberle was largely responsible for keeping Canada’s drive for five titles alive in Ottawa last year by scoring with five seconds left in the semifinal against Russia, and again in the shootout.
He scored Canada’s first power-play goal of the game at 17:11 and followed it up with another at 18:25.
“We battled back the hole game but they just kept coming,” Eberle told TSN. “It’s not easy. We showed the heart that we had to come back. It’s just tough to lose on home ice like this.”
Canadian goaltender Jake Allen of the Montreal Junior had a rough game. He was pulled after the Americans’ fifth goal early in the third for Martin Jones of the Calgary Hitmen. Allen made 23 save on 28 shots, while Martin made eight saves in relief.
U.S. starter Mike Lee didn’t fare much better as he was replaced early in the second by Jack Campbell after giving up three goals on seven shots. The 17-year-old stood tall despite his inexperience with 32 saves.
Allen’s costly mistake early in the third gave the U.S. at 5-3 lead at 6:23. The puck bobbled out in front of the Canadian goalie as he tried to glove it. Stepan caught Canada’s defence flat footed and raced in to bang the puck in.
D’Amigo put the U.S. ahead for the third time in the game at 4:12. He finished a rush with a wrist shot that beat Allen high stick side.Canada nearly grabbed the lead for the first time during regulation when Brandon Kozun’s shot deflected off the crossbar early in the third.
Canada was short-handed for a minute and 22 seconds to open the second period because defenceman Alex Pietrangelo’s checking-from-behind minor and misconduct.
Carlson threaded a puck from the point through traffic past Allen at 1:03 for a 3-2 lead, but Hall tied the game at 3:56 by shovelling the puck over Lee’s head, off the goaltender’s back and over the goal-line.
Allen didn’t have a strong first period as he had clear views of the shots that the U.S. scored with, but he held off the Americans during a power-play in the final minutes as they outshot the hosts 13-5 that period.
Nemisz scored his first of the tournament to make it 2-2 at 16:34 of the first. Nazem Kadri of the London Knights feathered the puck up to him through Americans legs and the Calgary Flames prospect beat Lee with a low shot.
The U.S. took a quick 2-1 lead with goals less than a minute apart. Schroeder whipped the puck over Allen’s shoulder at 14:32. Hall was stripped of the puck and Kreider’s blast from the top of the face-off circle hit the bottom corner of Canada’s net at 13:56.
Rimouski’s Jordan Caron drove down the wing and flipped the puck to Adam, whose backhand shot through Lee’s pads at 2:40.
Canadian forward Brandon McMillan played the odd shifts on defence and Spokane defenceman Jared Cowen had a lot more ice time in the absence of Travis Hamonic of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Hamonic suffered a shoulder injury late in Canada’s 6-1 semifinal win over Switzerland and was unable to dress for the championship.
Canada had 21 NHL draft picks, including 10 first-rounders, in a lineup with an average age of 19.4 years. The hosts were slightly taller and heavier on average than their opponent, who featured 15 draft picks (five first-rounders) and had an average age of 18.5.
Total attendance for the tournament in Regina and Saskatoon was just over 300,000. A record of 453,282 was set last year in Ottawa. Vancouver, which hosted games at GM Place and Pacific Coliseum in 2006, drew 374,353.