Oh mama, don’t you cry. USA Hockey is do or die.
Canada came into Tuesday night’s Gold Medal game the heavy favorites to win a second-consecutive World Juniors Championship. They’d gone undefeated in the six previous games, twice scoring in the double digits.
Though USA Hockey had three shut outs in the tournament, they lost to Russia in the preliminary round, and had a close call against Finland in Monday night’s semifinal. There were roster concerns even before the tournament, as the team lost a lot of their depth — including San Jose Sharks prospect Thomas Bordeleau, who was cut due to coronavirus protocols before the team headed to the bubble in Edmonton, Alberta.
Those concerns were quickly assuaged tonight. Once again, USA goaltender Spencer Knight was on the top of his game, making a perfect 34/34 saves. Canada didn’t make it easy on Knight, with a 34-21 shot share. Team USA was held to just six shots in the second period and one shot in the third, but Canada couldn’t break Knight.
Los Angeles Kings prospect Alex Turcotte struck first for the US, scoring just over halfway through the first period. A feed from Trevor Zegras met Drew Helleson at the point and Turcotte tipped in his shot up front. Zegras himself stuck next, just thirty seconds into the second period. Bo Byram, Quinton Byfield and Braden Schneider all had their own chances in the second in third periods, but all USA Hockey needed to do was hold on.
Trevor Zegras, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, was named the 2021 World Juniors Most Valuable Player, after leading scoring with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists).
This game marked a record-setting 12th shutout in a single U20 World Juniors Championship tournament.
Several Kings and Ducks prospects will be taking a chartered flight to Southern California to join their respective camps. That’s gonna be one awkward plane ride.