After a surprise 5-1 thrashing of Team Canada in the Semifinals round, the United States U-20 Team had a chance to capture gold in today's match with defending champions Sweden. They made the most of that chance, winning 3-1.
Team USA got off to a strong start in the 1st period, with a substantial amount of offensive zone pressure, including a forty second 5 on 3 opportunity. Florida Panthers' draftee Rocco Grimaldi, Calgary Flames pick John Gaudreau, and last year's 3rd overall pick Alex Galchenyuk all had scoring chances in the first, but the Americans were unable to convert on their 11 first period shots. Sweden, anchored by a sharp performance from netminder and St. Louis Blues 2011 5th round pick Niklas Lundstrom held their ground, generated some pressure of their own, and drew a couple of penalties to put Team USA on their heels late into the 1st. Neither side got on the board, and so we went into the 1st intermission deadlocked at 0-0.
The second period started off with a bang. Team USA looked unprepared for Sweden's quick start. Fillip Sandberg scored the game's first goal on the Power Play 1:09 into the 2nd to give Sweden the early lead. Team USA needed a strong comeback and a bit of luck to change momentum, and they got that 7:42 into the period, when a sharp shot by Rocco Grimaldi somehow managed to sneak past Lundstrom and even the score at 1-1. Just three minutes later, another fortunate bounce gave USA a 2-1 lead. Jacob Trouba's point shot deflected off of the glove of Grimaldi and past Lundstrom. The pace and speed of the game picked up from there, with both sides registering 12 shots a piece in the middle 20 minutes. No further goals in the 2nd meant the score remained 2-1 USA with 20 minutes to play.
Team USA came out in the 3rd period looking to score early and put this game away, but Sweden was not going to go down without a fight. Stellar offensive play by Sandberg, Washington Capitals' draftee Filip Forsberg, and Montreal Canadiens' draftee Sebastian Collberg put the US on their heels for much of the 3rd. Unfortunately for the Swedes, they ran into the John Gibson Show. The Anaheim Ducks prospect was fantastic, and received some big plays from his defensive corps, including Coyotes draft pick Connor Murphy, to keep the United States ahead down the stretch. Despite pulling their goaltender, the US holds strong, and an empty netter from Vincent Trocheck sealed the Gold Medal for the Team USA, with a final score of 3-1. John Gibson, who made 26 saves in the win, was named the tournament's most outstanding goaltender.
Congratulations to Team Sweden for a great tournament and a great game, and of course to Team USA for capturing their third gold medal in team history at the World Junior Championships.