The U.S. once again had the effort it needed in a fourth consecutive elimination game. This time it came on the biggest stage. From goaltending, to the defense to the forwards, Team USA’s 3-1 victory over Sweden was about as good a team effort as you’ll find. That was the difference in what turned out to be an absolutely fabulous gold-medal game.
Facing the defending champion from last year’s tournament and a group of players they have come quite more familiar with in the last few years, the Americans needed to match their effort from the previous game. They did that.
There were many instances where this game could have swung in the other direction, but a commitment to team defense, the typical strong goaltending of John Gibson and a couple of “greasy” goals gave the U.S. enough to beat a team that was as skilled as any in the tournament. The result was a 3-1 win and the third gold medal for Team USA at the World Junior Championship.
Coming up after the jump, an in-depth look at today’s game including stats, general notes and thoughts on every player that hit the ice for Team USA today.
Team USA Scoring Summary, Stats
Goals: Rocco Grimaldi (2), Vince Trocheck
Assists: Patrick Sieloff, Vince Trocheck, Jacob Trouba, J.T. Miller
Saves/GA: John Gibson – 26/1
Other stats of note…
— Rocco Grimaldi and Riley Barber led Team USA with four shots apiece.
— Team USA out-shot Sweden 34-27.
— The U.S. went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Sweden went 1-for-3.
— Vince Trocheck and Tyler Biggs were on the ice for all three U.S. goals.
— J.T. Miller and Jacob Trouba each had assists to tie Johnny Gaudreau as the team’s point leaders with nine. Miller closed out tournament play with a team-best seven assists, Gaudreau led the way with seven goals, while Trouba collected four goals and give assists.
— John Gibson’s .955 save percentage is the best ever by an American goalie at the World Juniors. His 1.36 goals-against average ranks third all-time for an American. He led all goalies at the 2013 WJC in both categories.
Official game sheet from today (IIHF).
Team USA’s final player statistics (IIHF)
Awards and Honors
John Gibson — Tournament MVP (as selected by the media), Directorate Award for Best Goaltender (selected by team officials from all 10 countries)
Jacob Trouba — Directorate Award for Best Defenseman (selected by team officials from all 10 countries)
Tournament All-Stars (as selected by the media): G-John Gibson, D-Jacob Trouba, D-Jake McCabe, F-Johnny Gaudreau
Team USA’s Three Best Players (as selected by the USA Hockey staff): John Gibson, Jacob Trouba, Johnny Gaudreau
— The U.S. had an OK first period in the game. They out-shot Sweden, but got off to a slow start. The Swedish attack was all over the U.S. to start the game, utilizing an aggressive forecheck that kept the American D on its heels for a bit. When things settled down, Team USA got better and got back to its game plan. The one thing they kept doing even into the later goings of that period, however, was making one too many passes with the puck and passing up good shots. They simplified the rest of the game and it worked.
— After Sweden scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period, the response from the U.S. was so important. There was no panic at any point. They played their best hockey from there on out and that push-back carried them through the duration of the game.
— Rocco Grimaldi’s goals were both huge, obviously. His first was the kind of goal those that have watched him for the last few years have seen him score before. He just outworked everyone on the ice and then ended up getting a little lucky with the puck rolling on the goalie. Here’s a look (s/t @cjzero).
The next goal was not exactly by the book, but, if you keep a close eye on the beginning of the video below, Grimaldi comes to a complete stop in front of the net. He knows Trouba’s got the clean shot, so even at 5-foot-6, he made sure to get in front for a deflection or a screen if possible. Another good bounce drops for the kid who had been snakebitten for a lot of the tournament. Looks like that one might have bounced off the crest. (s/t again to the incomparable @cjzero)
— While both goals were very big, the U.S. still had a lot of game left to defend that lead. The biggest play the rest of the game came via John Gibson. With Sweden getting a good transition and a clean break down the ice, Viktor Arvidsson used his tremendous speed to attempt a wraparound. John Gibson matched the quickness and flung a leg pad just in the nick of time. If he doesn’t make the save, Sweden has new life and a tie score to work with. It was as big a save as Gibson had made in the tournament and there were several huge ones along the way. Here’s what it looked like (s/t to who else? @cjzero)
— The U.S. defense was just terrific Saturday. Holding Sweden to 27 shots, while also limiting good quality chances. The blueliners weathered the storm of the first half of that first period when it seemed the Swedish attack was coming in waves at times. Poise would probably be a good description of all seven guys for much of the game. That was a big difference. Gibson did a lot to hold Sweden to a goal, but the D needs some credit as well. The only goal also came on the power play. It was very tough for the Swedes to get good looks 5-on-5.
— There were some subtle moves made by the coaching staff today that helped contribute to the win. Shayne Gostisbehere, who did not play much against Canada got more ice time, which worked because the pace of the game was so quick. His speed was perfect to play the game at that tempo. It was at the expense of Patrick Sieloff’s ice time a little bit, but Sieloff once again had a quietly effective game in the shifts he did get. That was a slight alteration later in the game that just made enough difference
— The shot blocking throughout the game from Team USA was better than it had been all tournament. The forwards were selling out to get to the points and the defensemen were making the right reads and timing everything properly down low. Sweden’s inability to get shots through and get many second chances either.
— The Grimaldi-Trocheck-Biggs line had not made an impact on the score sheet since being joined up in the medal round. They got all three goals today (though Grimaldi was not out for Trocheck’s empty-netter). That third line had done a lot more checking than producing, so to get something out of them in the biggest game of the tournament had to be a pleasant surprise. Beyond the goals they were buzzing all game and did a lot of the little things well in all zones.
— The U.S. had a complete team effort in the final game. Coming down off the emotional high of beating Canada in such an emphatic way couldn’t have been easy, but the team took the off day to refocus. It was such a businesslike approach from Team USA today. They knew what they had to do and everyone did their job.
Full highlights from today’s game…
Rocco Grimaldi — Named Team USA’s best player for his two-goal performance, Grimaldi had his best game. Coming all the way back from that benching against Slovakia, Grimaldi handled it the right way. Instead of stewing about it, he came back better. His two goals were the result of hard work and being in the right spot. He got the bounces that eluded him all tournament today.
John Gibson — The saves he made throughout made a big difference for this team. That pad save on Arvidsson will go down as his biggest of the WJC. The reason he was MVP of the tournament was not just because of the saves like that, though. He was consistent throughout the tournament and Team USA’s best player in just about every game. The amount of confidence he gave his team is immeasurable. He had the finish he and his team needed and it will go down in history as one of the great performances for any goaltender in this tournament.
Jake McCabe — For me, Jake McCabe was the team’s best defenseman today. He was making all the right plays and right decisions with the puck. He broke up some odd-man breaks, took the body and was keeping thing really calm in the D zone. He made Seth Jones, the potential No. 1 overall pick, better. In turn, he made the U.S. better defensively. Not only that, but from those within the team, McCabe was lauded for his leadership. He finished the tournament with a team-best plus-9 rating and third in the tournament with seven points.
Vince Trocheck — He scored the empty-netter that sealed it and touched off one of the great bench celebrations you’ll see, but even before that Trocheck was having a very effective game. He blocked shots, he got up ice quickly and he also ended up with an assist to go along with that empty-netter. He’s one of the top scorers in the OHL and didn’t really get going until the second half of the tournament, but he had his best game Saturday.
Tyler Biggs — While he only ended up with one assist offensively, Biggs was impacting the games in otherways. He was one of Team USA’s best penalty killers and forecheckers and was blocking shots and getting after loose pucks today. He even had a few nice offensive plays to get pucks to the net. He’s under such scrutiny about his offense as a first-round pick from the Maple Leafs, but he does things that are important for winning hockey games and he showed that in the gold-medal game.
Jacob Trouba — He was so good in this tournament as an underager last year, but miles better this year, which says a lot. He won the directorate award for best defenseman as an 18-year-old. That’s not easy to do. Trouba’s play at both ends of the ice today was solid. He shoulders part of the blame for the goal against, batting a puck back towards his net that ended up taking a bad hop off of Seth Jones and onto Filip Sandberg’s stick, but other than that he was strong. Trouba was making such good defensive reads and he took the shot that went off Grimaldi for the eventual game-winner.
Seth Jones — After a slow start, Jones got new life with Jake McCabe and that pairing once again was Team USA’s best. He did well to shut down Sweden’s top forwards and was moving the puck extremely well today. His outlet passes are almost always on point and that helps the transition in such a big way. Jones didn’t make too many risky decisions and mostly kept things simple, which helped him a lot in his own end.
Johnny Gaudreau — Though he didn’t score, Gaudreau was a consistent threat. He was so good on the rush today and making those little creative moves to give himself that little bit of space. Johnny Hockey was tough to get the puck from today and even drew a penalty with that shiftiness. His puck skills overall are off the charts, particularly for an American. That creativity was so important throughout the latter half of the tournament and again on Saturday.
Cole Bardreau — The Grind Line’s center was all over the place today. While he made a few questionable decisions offensively early, he was good at utilizing his speed in all zones. Bardreau played the gritty style that earned him a spot on this team. Every game, he did something positive and that just carried over into the gold-medal game with his defensive play and strong penalty killing.
J.T. Miller — After what happened last year, Miller wanted redemption. He got it in a big way. Miller kept things simple again today. He wasn’t forcing things like he did at the beginning of the tournament and try to do too much. As a result, he got his ninth point of the tournament, after intercepting a pass and springing Trocheck on the game-sealing breakaway. He was disappointing at the start, excellent at the end and that’s really all that matters. Miller made this tournament count. In the highlight video above, make sure to get a look at his face after the dog pile on Trocheck. Priceless.
Mike Reilly — I thought Reilly had his best overall game today, highlighted by an end-to-end rush where he showed his speed and creativity. He made a subtle move in his own zone to make the oncoming forward bite and he was gone. It didn’t pay off with a goal, but he showed that ability to be a one-man breakout when needed. He also was solid defensively, more solid than he had been in any game. That allowed Housley to get him and Connor Murphy out there more and not have to over-utilize the top four. He made the most of the role he was given.
Connor Murphy — You almost never notice Murphy, but he does so many things right defensively. He has great size and reach, but more importantly he knows how to use it. Murphy made some really heady plays, blocked shots and just looked solid throughout. He’s had great success in games against Sweden in the past and while he didn’t end up on the score sheet today, he was an important part of Team USA’s victory.
Alex Galchenyuk — His usage was much talked about, but with the results its hard to argue with it. He had a few really solid offensive shifts in the game and his skill makes him a threat any time he’s out there. He might have gotten frustrated with some of the offense, but I don’t think he ever let it show. With all his accolades and hype, it has to be tough for a guy like him to essentially be a role player, but he did a lot to help this team win a gold medal by registering eight points in the tournament. He is a special player.
Sean Kuraly — I thought Kuraly looked as good today as he did against Germany. He kind of had an up-and-down tournament, but for the most part he was getting involved offensively and showed off some of that two-way capability. He plays with such speed and his size just gives him that little extra.
Riley Barber — Barber also had an up-and-down tournament, but when he was good he was very good and he looked threatening all day against Sweden. He didn’t have the finish, but he and Galchenyuk developed a really nice chemistry over the course of the tournament, which led to some good chances.
Blake Pietila — Pietila had another productive game utilizing his strength and getting in on the forecheck. He also played well in his own zone and gave his team energetic shifts every time out. This team needed a guy with his skill set to be effective in the tournament and he brought it just about every game out.
Ryan Hartman — He helped provide some good offense to that Grind Line, but also that important physical presence. Hartman had a history of taking bad penalties and that only materialized once really (at the end of the Canada prelim game). He played controlled and just stayed pretty quiet. The Grind Line had a lot to do with Team USA’s success overall and Hartman was a key part of ensuring that.
Shayne Gostisbehere — After losing a game to suspension, he came back strongly even though he was more of a seventh defenseman from there on out. He had a few turnovers in the gold-medal game, but nothing that proved too costly. By utilizing his speed, he was able to keep up with those quick Swedish forwards and that helped in transition and in the D zone. Gostisbehere just keeps getting better and better.
Patrick Sieloff — Though he had to miss a few more shifts than he did against Canada, Sieloff had a sound defensive game. He also had the assist on Grimaldi’s goal after he found the soft area to get the puck to. Grimaldi won the race to it and it turned into Team USA’s first goal. Sieloff kept everything contained despite his ability to really get after opponents physically. He played smart the whole way and as the last guy to make the roster, made the most of his opportunity.
Jimmy Vesey — Vesey with Gaudreau and Miller was once again looking really strong offensively. He showed exactly why he earned his promotion with his ability to power to the net and get chances. Vesey has speed, but that power move he has is really something worth watching. As he continues to develop and gain strength, he’ll be even tougher to stop. It was a relatively quiet game overall, but there were some good flashes from the Harvard freshman.
— I joined The Pipeline Show to talk about Team USA’s win. You can listen to the full audio here.
— The final tournament scoring leaders: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins finished first with 15 points. Johnny Gaudreau, Jacob Trouba and J.T. Miller tied for fifth overall. (IIHF)
— Mike Morreale on Team USA’s gold-medal victory (NHL.com)
— Chemmy over at The Sleeping Giant on Team USA’s victory. (TSG)
— The Grind Line’s Cole Bardreau’s terrific post-game interviews of teammates is must-see TV. Pierre McGuire’s job in jeopardy.
The World Junior coverage is not yet over here at USofH. After taking a breather Sunday, expect a complete recap of the tournament with notes on every player’s complete body of work, thoughts on the significance of this gold medal and a look ahead to 2014. We’ll wrap it all up with a nice bow next week, so stay tuned.