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…

First some overall takeaways…

1.ย This U.S. team will be remembered as a special one for more than winning gold.

To my knowledge, no team has EVER had to beat two teams twice in the same tournament. USA took out its two biggest rivals in back-to-back shootouts. It took every single minute, of both games in the medal round, but the U.S. finished strong and found a way to win.

This is also the first team to win seven games in a World Junior. The 2004 team went 6-0, but a format change three years ago ended the bye for winning the group. Going wire to wire as the top team is hard enough, having to do it in seven games over 11 days against the best U20s available, that’s incredible.

The history books were against this team at every turn, but they proved to be USA Hockey’s slump buster in a lot of ways. They ended a five-game losing streak to Russia, which included three straight losses that ended their bid for gold. They ended six straight losses to Canada on New Year’s Eve. And they beat two of the best U20 teams in the world twice in the same tournament.

I don’t think a U.S. team has ever had a tougher road to gold in the four times that they’ve won it. Few could have played better.

Here’s the other thing. Team USA had multiple players fall ill before today’s game. Tanner Laczynski missed the semi, Ryan Lindgren, who was U.S. Player of the Game against Canada in the prelims couldn’t play in the final. The bench had to stay short and it still didn’t matter.

The one thing that every player said after the game in their TV interviews was how quickly they came together. They were truly a team and stayed that way throughout. These guys get a few weeks to get on the same page and if you’re not on from the start, it’s tough to get it going.

You have to credit the coaching staff, the leadership group and every single guy who bought in for that kind of performance.

But here’s how I know that this was a special group compared even to their predecessors.

2. The key to this team’s success was an ability to respond when games swung against them

Team USA didn’t trail at any point in the tournament until the semifinals. But there were swings in games that make (and have made) lesser teams fall apart. There was no better example than falling behind 2-0 early and then 4-2 in the third period.

There was zero panic, they just went to work. And every time they needed a big goal or a big play, they got it. And it was usually a different guy every time, except for Parsons being consistently great and Troy Terry being automatic in the shootout.

Colin White had seven goals and it seemed like every one of them was meaningful. Charlie McAvoy played 35:33 in the final including 10:20 in overtime after playing half of yesterday’s overtime. Caleb Jones played 36:01 and 10:50 in overtime after doing the same Adam Fox had two miscues on Canada’s first two goals. He responded with assists on USA’s two goals to tie it back in the second. Kieffer Bellows had a pretty rough tournament, but scored twice in the final. Team USA’s fourth line kept giving good shifts every time they hit the ice.

Parsons made 46 saves in the championship including several in OT that saved the game. Then he stopped everyone in the shootout. And Troy Terry did the thing.

They led for exactly 0 seconds in the gold medal game, but they won it. Never. Flinched.

3. Tyler Parsons and a strong PK won the gold for USA

The two most important things that happened for the U.S. was that Tyler Parsons shook off the goals he gave up and the PK only allowed one goal despite Canada getting handed six power plays in a final. The U.S. got two.

Team USA’s PK was so sharp, killing 10:39 of power play time, including a full two minutes in overtime after a too-many men on the ice penalty.

Without those key stops, Canada could have put the game away. But special teams is huge in every WJC and the U.S. had some of their best stuff in the biggest game.

Parsons making 46 saves through 80 minutes and making five more in the shootout was just stunning. The fact that he was busy in Wednesday’s semifinal and just came right back and had the game of his life was incredible.

4. Team USA’s leadership group deserves a lot of credit

Everyone you talk to about Luke Kunin will first tell you about his leadership and then about his hockey skills. Team USA’s captain had the respect of his teammates and the trust of his coaches. Having a strong captain near the top of your lineup is so key to getting the team to come together.

Kunin is a captain as a sophomore at Wisconsin, the first sophomore to wear the C in 41 years for the Badgers. The last guy who did that was Mike Eaves, who led Team USA to the 2004 gold at the WJC as head coach. The last two captains to win gold before Kunin were also Badgers. Derek Stepan in 2010 and Jake McCabe in 2013 both hoisted the trophy over their heads.

It’s an interesting coincidence, but whatever they’re doing in Madison…. keep doing it.

The alternate captains were huge contributors, too. Colin White led Team USA with seven goals, including the game-tying marker in the third period to make it 4-4 on a deflection. Charlie McAvoy scored USA’s first goal of the game on a confident snipe and set up Kieffer Bellows beautifully for the third U.S. goal. McAvoy had his very best game of the tournament in the final and White was just great throughout the whole tournament.

White and McAvoy were the only guys on last year’s bronze-medal squad, that was way better on paper than this team. These two helped this team rise to the level needed to win, alongside Kunin.

5. Stray thoughts

  • Between 2010 and Saskatoon and 2017 in Montreal, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’m leaning towards 2017 as the better of the two games. Yes, it unfortunately ended in a shootout, which is slightly better than a coin flip, but 80 minutes of thrilling hockey. Chance after chance after chance. Four goals for each team. The individual performances. I’m leaning 2017 as the best USA-Canada game of all time.
  • So, uh, maybe USA should never move away from their 1960 jerseys. The U.S. won each of their last four games while wearing those beautiful throwbacks. Bring back the blue, too!
  • USA was able to lengthen their bench way more than I thought they would in the gold medal game. Joe Cecconi and Jack Ahcan had to play a ton and they looked great out there. The last two defensemen to make the team just made so many right moves.
  • Troy Terry. Five Hole. 4-for-4.

Here’s a look at some of the reactions from WJC alumni:

I’ll try to get a full player-by-player rundown up at some point, but for now… I’ll leave it there.

What a fun game, a fun tournament and an incredible night of great hockey. Take it away, boys…

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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3 Responses to USA beats Canada in epic World Junior Championship Final: 5 takeaways from an all-time great WJC game

  1. pmoore54 says:

    An unreal tournament especially considering how many guys they couldn’t bring due to injury and/or NHL commitments.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow. What a game. Two shootouts over our bitter rivals to win? Are you kidding? This tourney was made even better having your insights to draw from pre and post matchup along the way. Thanks Chris! I hope you keep these magical two weeks free in your calendar for us admirers of USoH!! GO USA!!!

  3. Pingback: Ultimate Sports Talk – JFK hat trick rallies BU past Union; US wins WJC Gold in shootout–UPDATED

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