With a 3-2 shootout victory over Finland, the U.S. Men’s National Team claimed the country’s first medal at the IIHF World Championship since 2004 and just the third since 1962. It doesn’t happen often, so this one certainly has meaning.
After surrendering a 2-0 lead in the third period, it looked as though the Americans’ medal hopes were in question. Lauri Korpikoski scored twice in just over three minutes in the third to make things interesting. After a scoreless overtime, the game had to be decided in a shootout.
Craig Smith didn’t get a shot away on his attempt as the first shooter, but John Gibson sucked some air out of the building with his dazzling save on Petri Kontiola, kicking out the leg pad and getting all of the puck. Then T.J. Oshie got stuffed, opening the door for Finland again and Jani Pesonen made the most of it, putting one past Gibson.
It all came down to Montreal Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk to keep the game alive. He completely confused Antti Raanta and roofed one to make it 1-1. Lauri Korpikoski still had a chance to end for Finland, but missed wide.
With extra shooters, teams can choose any player to take the shot regardless if they’ve already gone in the shootout. Also, the order changes, meaning the U.S. got the second shot.
Mikael Granlund, so often a hero for Finland, nearly beat Gibson with the Forsberg-style move, but the puck glanced wide. Galchenyuk was tapped again.
In what seemed like a carbon copy of his previous goal, Galchenyuk roofed another one to seal the bronze.
Here are the highlights:
It was fitting that Galchenyuk, one of three players from the World Junior Championship squad that took gold this year won it for the U.S. He’ll figure prominently into USA Hockey’s future going forward, but so early in his career came through with a big goal.
Galchenyuk told USA Today’s Kevin Allen, “I have never been more nervous in my life,” regarding his shootout attempts.
According to David Moss, Galchenyuk wasn’t due to take the second shot, but told Sacco he wanted to go again, so he went. That’s some confidence right there. He’s going to be a good one.
Youth was most definitely served on this roster, with big contributions coming from Jacob Trouba and none bigger than John Gibson.
The 19-year-old Pittsburgh native made 36 stops in the game to put forth his fifth stellar performance in his fifth start. The young goaltender finished the tournament with a 1.56 goals-against average and .951 save percentage over 308 minutes of action. He was simply the difference for the team.
Paul Stastny and Craig Smith each had two points in regulation, capping two of the most productive performances in the modern era of this tournament by any American.
Stastny finished second behind Petri Kontiola for the tournament lead with 15 points. Smith, meanwhile, led the tournament with 10 assists and finished with 14 points in World Championship play, good for third in the tournament.
The bronze also caps a remarkable year for USA Hockey. U.S. national teams won a medal in each of its World Championship events this year including gold at the Women’s Worlds and World Junior Championship, silver at the U18 Women’s and Men’s World Championships and Sled Hockey Worlds, bronze at the Men’s World Championship. That is a rare thing for any country to do, and apparently it hasn’t been accomplished since 2008 when Canada did it. Pretty incredible.
Odds and Ends
– Paul Stastny was the lone American named to the all-tournament team.
– Team USA won seven games, which ties the record for an American team at the World Championship. That record was set in 1939.
– Team USA’s best three players of the tournament as determined by the USA staff were Paul Stastny, Craig Smith and Justin Faulk. I was surprised Gibson wasn’t one, but technically he played in half the games, while the other three played in all 10, if you’re looking for justification. Still would’ve picked Gibson, though Faulk was quite good throughout the tournament and quite clearly was Team USA’s best D.
– Based on my research, John Gibson, Jacob Trouba and Alex Galchenyuk became the first Americans in history to earn medals at both the World Junior Championship and Men’s World Championship in the same year.
I’ll have much more recap coverage from the World Championship including extensive player notes. So check back soon for that.
Until then, you get the Sparkling Eagle: