After a game like tonight, you don't need a fancy headline. The subtlety says it all.
For only the second time in history Team USA has won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships, a tournament showcasing NHL prospects and draft picks to be. All of the best under-20 year old players in the world were in Saskatoon the last 10 days representing their countries and leaving everything they had on the ice. Many of the games provided some of the finest hockey you'll see anywhere this year. As one broadcaster put it, you may not recognize some of the names now, but you will soon enough.
Team USA was playing for only its sixth gold medal in tourney history. Canada was playing for their sixth straight gold. Team USA's Chris Kreider and Jerry D'amigo - both draft picks of Original Six teams - each scored their sixth goals of the tournament. Taylor Hall of Team Canada, the expected top pick at this year's NHL draft, also scored his sixth goal. Trailing late in the game, Canada's Jordan Eberle made the most of his sixth game at this year's WJC, scoring two goals in the final minutes to tie things up and force overtime.
Team USA was up against Canada late in the game last year and lost. They were on top of them again just a few days ago in the New Year's Eve thriller...only to come from ahead and lose. So when Eberle tied the game tonight you just knew it spelled the end for the Americans.
However, during the 3rd period/OT intermission on the NHL Network they interviewed one of the U.S. assistant coaches - something they had been doing throughout the WJC. When asked if the mood was somber in the locker room after letting Canada back into a game yet again, he said "No, Johnny Carlson is in there right now firing the boys up." At the time, it seemed like an odd name to mention. Not team captain, Derek Stepan. Not assistant captain Jordan Schroeder, playing in his third WJC for Team USA. No, it was John Carlson.
Indeed. Just 4:31 into the extra period he put one past Kings prospect Martin Jones to win it all for Team USA. John Carlson. It was his second goal of the night and probably the biggest of his young career.
Prior to the game, fans and players alike had to be wondering how this game could possibly match the drama and excitement of the previous contest a few days earlier. After all, when these two teams met in the prelims it was a game that ended in a shootout, after already seeing two shorthanded goals, a penalty shot and several lead changes. What could they possibly do for an encore? Well, how often do BOTH starting goaltenders get pulled in the same game? Not very often to say the least.
Credit for this win will rightfully go to the players on the ice. However, enough good things can't be written about U.S. coach Dean Blais. He had the conviction to make tough calls when he needed to throughout the tournament and this game was no exception. Pulling Mike Lee for Jack Campbell about four minutes into the second period took some nerve. Then when Canada followed six minutes into the third - replacing Jake Allen with Jones - some people had to be thinking this is nuts.
One of the most exciting games you'll ever see. That's the second time in less than a week I've written that about a game involving these two teams. Yet, it's true. Each game was entirely different, with one constant - edge of the seat excitement from the moment the puck dropped.
I can hardly wait for next year's tournament in Buffalo.
Interview with Jeremy Roenick - JR previews Canada vs U.S. and talks about his time w/ Team USA
Canada - USA lives up to the hype
WJC Gold Rush, American Style
Interview with Brandon Kozun - Team Canada forward and Kings prospect
Comments from Brayden Schenn - Team Canada forward and Kings prospect
Here are the official game highlights...