2017 World Juniors Wrap: Why this U.S. team was so special; player-by-player reviews

Did that really happen? Did Team USA really go 7-0 at the World Junior Championship on the way to gold? Did they really beat their two biggest rivals twice in the same tournament? Did Troy Terry really go 4-for-4 in a shootout? Did Tyler Parsons really make those saves? Were there really two shootouts? Seriously, did all of that happen?

It did.

The U.S. is World Junior Champion once again and they had to do it the hard way. Nothing came easy to this team and no matter what stood in their way, they found a way to overcome it. That’s what will make this particular title so memorable. This team was not favored, and rightly so. But they showed what can happen when a team comes together and every single player is on board, the coaches are well prepared and a few individuals step up to deliver in the biggest moments.

Another incredible thing that this group did was that they managed to capture a wide audience’s attention with their incredible final against Canada. #WJC2017 was a top trending topic in the United States on Twitter. Prominent sportswriters, politicians and sports personalities were tweeting about the game. Facebook and Twitter were flooded with American flag emojis and bar TVs across the country tuned into the World Junior Championship.

Having covered the tournament for the last seven years on this blog, I never thought I would see the tournament gain that much traction. It all had to do with the incredible theater the final provided, but good sports drama is just plain good TV. Also, NHL.com deciding to stream the game made for a much larger audience. I wonder if we’ll ever see the numbers for it since NHL Network is not rated by Nielsen, but I wouldn’t be shocked if it was a big night for NHL Network and NHL.com. The buzz was insane

This was a peak moment for this tournament in the United States and I don’t know if it can be replicated. What I do know is that this tournament is going to have a lot more fans eager to tune in now because how could you not after a game like that?

So, it’s time to wrap up the 2017 WJC. Here are some of the things I’ll remember about the tournament and I also decided to bring back the old player capsules I used to do after every tournament. So you’ll get my thoughts on all 23 USA players. Let’s get to it.

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USA beats Canada in epic World Junior Championship Final: 5 takeaways from an all-time great WJC game

Tyler Parsons turned aside all five Canadian shooters and Troy Terry did what Troy Terry does as the U.S. beat Canada 5-4 in one of the best World Junior Championship finals ever.

The U.S. had to overcome a 2-0 deficit after the first period by scoring two in the second. Canada jumped out to a 4-2 lead within the first 4:05 of the third period. Within 3:02 the U.S. had knotted the game 4-4.

They stayed scoreless through the end of regulation. Scoreless through a frenetically played 5-on-5 OT for 20 minutes. Then the stage was set for Parsons and Terry to play hero for the second straight game and they both rose to the challenge.

The U.S. has now won three straight gold-medal games against Canada. Additionally, their three golds since 2010 are the most for any country since Canada won five straight from 2005-09. There hasn’t been a repeat champion since then either. This tournament has been so unpredictable and fun over these last seven years and it’s only getting better.

You think about all of the guys who could be in this tournament for all teams and the kids that are available deliver a show like that? The future of this game is so bright.

There is so much to get to, so let’s get it started…

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2017 WJC Gold-Medal Game Preview: USA vs. Canada — 4 things to know; NHL.com to stream game live

After a thrilling semifinal victory over Russia Wednesday, the U.S. National Junior Team faces yet another familiar foe and a bigger challenge as they’ll take on Canada for the gold medal at the 2017 World Junior Championship.

The puck is set to drop around 8 p.m. ET and will air live on NHL Network and will also be streamed on NHL.com. Here is the official stream link: https://www.nhl.com/video/live-usa-vs-canada-on-nhln/t-285362346/c-48065703

The U.S. is facing the daunting task of having to beat not one, but two teams twice in the same tournament. It’s never been done before, to my knowledge. Not only that, but they have to beat the host team on the grandest stage in junior hockey. It’s an incredible test for a team that has found a way to pass every single one before this.

With their win over Russia, the first medal-round victory for Team USA against their old rival ever at the World Juniors, this team did something incredibly special. But to make that win iconic, at least relative to U.S. World Junior history, they have to win the whole thing.

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2017 World Juniors: USA beats Russia in classic semifinal; 5 takeaways, Terry, Parsons play hero

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Troy Terry’s name will be synonymous with a game that will go down as one of the greats at the IIHF World Junior Championship. He also has the distinction of lifting the U.S. National Junior Team to an accomplishment that they had previously not achieved at this tournament.

With three goals in a seven-round shootout, Terry helped lift the U.S. to a stunning 4-3 semifinal victory over Russia to advance to the gold-medal game for the third time in seven years. It is the first time the U.S. has defeated Russia in the medal round at the World Juniors, having failed seven previous times in tournament history.

This sets up a meeting with Canada Thursday in the final. The game will air live on NHL Network at 8 p.m. ET.

But first, we’ve got to talk about this incredible semi.

While Terry will get the accolades for the goals, goaltender Tyler Parsons was unquestionably Team USA’s most important player for the 60 minutes of regulation, 10 minutes of overtime and in putting the U.S. in position to win the game in a shootout. The American netminder made 33 saves through regulation and overtime, before turning aside four of Russia’s seven shooters in the extras.

The shootout victory capped off a game where the U.S. had definitely played well enough to win in regulation, but an inability to cut through Russia’s defense after their European rivals tied the game in the third period put the game in precarious position.

The end will overshadow the game in its totality, but from start to finish, this was an incredible IIHF semifinal. Russia seems to only play in great ones at this stage of the tournament and now USA has a win that will go down as one of their signature moments in this tournament.

Goals from Colin White and Luke Kunin helped the U.S. battle back from early deficits before White added another in the second period. Russia tied it in the third, played to a scoreless OT and then went seven rounds as Parsons and Ilya Samsonov performed incredibly well, just as they had all game long.

Then it was Troy Terry Time.

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2017 World Juniors: USA vs. Russia Semifinal Preview — Learning from the past

usaiihfrussiaFor the fourth straight World Junior Championship, Russia stands in the way of the U.S. on their road to a fourth gold medal. Team USA will hope that history does not repeat itself Wednesday as they take on their biggest European rival in the semifinal at 3 p.m. ET on NHL Network.

In each of the previous three World Juniors, Russia has ended the Americans’ golden dreams rather unceremoniously. In fact, no U.S. team has ever beaten Russia when the two have met in the medal round.

While it is a dubious history, this U.S. team has been thumbing its nose at long droughts and what the record books say. They ended a five-game skid against Russia in the preliminary round, handing the U.S. its first win over the Russians since 2008. They also beat Canada on New Year’s Eve for the first time since 1998. This coaching staff and these players have had the right approach when it comes to the past. They had nothing to do with those other years and can only focus on what they’re supposed to do.

One way the recent past has come up to bite them a little bit is that it has created the toughest possible route to the gold-medal game thanks to how the previous year’s seeding shook out. After playing Russia and Canada in the prelims, there’s a chance they’ll have to play both again for a shot at gold, depending on the results of the semifinals as Group A was far weaker than Group B.

Beating a team twice in the same tournament has proven next to impossible.

That is one of the challenges the U.S. faces today.

On top of that, the Americans got all they could handle out of a Swiss team that put a real scare into the U.S. in the quarterfinals. In the end, that scare may have been just what the U.S. needed after not really struggling much at all in the preliminary round.

Here’s what you need to know about Wednesday’s semifinal matchup with Russia…

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2017 World Juniors: USA beats Switzerland in tough quarterfinal; Greenway, Bracco, Parsons among standouts

usawjcSurvive and advance. At this point of the World Junior Championship, that’s all that matters. With heavy emphasis on survival, the U.S. will count themselves lucky to be advancing.

In a 3-2 win, the U.S. can’t be at all happy with the way it played amid an absolutely relentless Switzerland that controlled the second half of the game pretty handily. A third-period goal by Jordan Greenway scored 18 seconds after Switzerland had tied the game, proved to be the difference as the Americans advanced to a Wednesday semifinal date with Russia.

The game had started just fine as the U.S. got a pair of first-period goals to put Switzerland on its heels early. Jeremy Bracco finished a nice backdoor pass from Troy Terry to open the scoring on the power play before Luke Kunin doubled the lead with his first goal of the tournament.

From then on, it was the Nico Hischier show, with the U.S. falling into counter-punch mode over the last two periods. Hischier scored a pair on the power play and was the best player on the ice the entire game. It looked like Switzerland had taken control of the third period after Hischier scored his second goalie.

Then they gave the game right back to USA after an unfortunately-placed stick led to a tripping call. USA scored seven seconds into the power play thanks to Greenway’s excellent net-front play (see below) to make it 3-2.

Meanwhile, Tyler Parsons was excellent as the last line of defense, making several huge saves in the final four minutes of the game, none bigger than his glove-handed robbery of Hischier who was completely left alone in front. He finished the game with 19 saves, but the quality chances he faced were far greater than this U.S. team should have allowed.

Here are five takeaways from USA’s uneasy quarterfinal game.

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2017 World Juniors: USA vs. Switzerland Quarterfinal Preview — 4 things to know

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The U.S. won its group for the first time since the 2011 World Junior Championship after running through Pool B with a perfect 4-0-0-0 record. As a result, they’ll meet Switzerland who managed to narrowly make the playoff round thanks to a thrilling comeback overtime win over upstart Denmark.

Team USA and Switzerland are set to square off Monday at 5:30 p.m. ET on NHL Network. Should the U.S. win, they’ll face Russia in the semifinal for the second straight year on Wednesday.

No U.S. team has ever lost to Switzerland at the World Juniors, owning 20 wins in 22 all-time meetings, with a pair of ties in there. While the historical angle is nice, the U.S. will be much happier about how the team has seemingly improved with each passing game. Their style suggests that they should be able to contain Switzerland, but as has been proven in previous years, there are no guarantees in the World Juniors.

Here are a few things to know about Monday’s quarterfinal…

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