“They inspired a nation,” Team USA head coach Phil Housley said shortly after team USA clinched gold this morning at the 2013 U-20 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia behind two goals from forward Rocco Grimaldi and that allowed team USA to hold on and defeat Sweden 3-1. Housley went on to say, “We’re bringing home the gold guys,” and that you are Phil, that you are.
While saying this team inspired a nation may be a bit of a stretch, one can’t deny that recent success by American hockey teams in international play and NHL expansion throughout the States has led to a growth of American-born hockey players that are highly skilled. 14 states are represented on this years roster and even Globe and Mail writer James Mirtle relents that hockey fans around the world should get used to seeing consistently competitive and talented American squads at all levels.
Getting back to this years squad, goaltender John Gibson who is property of the Anaheim Ducks, was named MVP and he deserved it as he was the Americans best player throughout the tournament. He was the calming force that allowed team USA’s confidence to grow. Many of his saves were of the spectacular variety and were almost always timely. A well deserved MVP award and an even sweeter gold medal for Gibson.
On defense, Jacob Trouba who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets, was easily the best blue-liner for team USA. He was an absolute beast in his own end and showed an offensive output that saw him put up a bunch of points. He’ll be a player to keep an eye on once he reaches the big leagues. Also, the defense combined with Gibson were the obvious strength of team USA.
On offense, Calgary Flames prospect and current Boston College Eagle, Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau was the most dangerous threat for team USA down the stretch. His hands were sweet, his passes precise and he just took over games at times. He was real fun to watch, especially in the medal rounds. Montreal Canadiens recent 3rd overall pick Alex Galchenyuk, started off hot for team USA but cooled however he’s always a threat when he has the puck and he continually found the score sheet even when struggling. Once he gets a little stronger he will be a force in the NHL.
Sweden takes home the silver a year after winning the gold and Russia receives the bronze after defeating a stacked, yet disappointing Canadian squad in overtime. It’s the first time since 1998 that team Canada failed to medal, an impressive run by the Canadians who have little, if anything to be ashamed of when it comes to the sport of hockey.
All around a big win for the Americans and the USA Hockey program. As always it was a fun tournament to watch and I can’t wait for next year’s tournament in Sweden.
It was fun to have live, competitive hockey on my television once again that I could be passionate about. Hopefully the NHL was watching and remembers hockey is a lot more fun to watch on the ice and not in board rooms and court rooms.