The World Juniors have earned a reputation over the years for showcasing some of the most exciting, memorable games that the sport of hockey has to offer.
The gold medal game of the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship not only lived up to that reputation, but it just added another prime example of it for the hockey history books.
The United States and Canada, hockey’s two most prominent nations and longtime rivals, offered up another classic on Thursday night. It was a captivating, back-and-forth affair that was rife with drama and tension and emotion. Goals were scored, saves were made, hits were leveled, and the whole glorious spectacle went right to the bitter end.
Ultimately, however, it would be the U.S. that would come out as the top team, winning the game all the way in the 5th round of the shootout.
If you were watching, this won’t be a game that will soon be forgotten.
Gold Medal Game: United States 5, Canada 4 (SO)
Down, but never out.
The United States trailed twice by two-goal margins, 2-0 in the first period and then again 4-2 in the third, but rallied back both times in Herculean fashion to tie the game.
A full 20-minute overtime saw a flurry of scoring chances but actually solved nothing for the score itself, taking the game next into a five-round shootout, the second in as many days for Team USA.
And, amazingly, the same hero emerged both times.
If Anaheim Ducks prospect Troy Terry earned himself a place in American hockey history on Wednesday with his three shootout goals in the semifinal win over Russia, he only cemented that legacy on Thursday night. The 2015 5th round draft pick scored the one and only tally in the shootout tonight, beating Canadian goalie Carter Hart five-hole, the exact same place that all of his goals were scored yesterday. It would hold up as this year’s Golden Goal.
Troy Terry scores in the 4th round (w/bench reaction) pic.twitter.com/kZxiYqEawh— GIF Grand Maester (@myregularface) January 6, 2017
"It was such an up-and-down game," Terry said. "We were down two goals twice. I think when we were down 2-0 and came back to tie it we got some confidence because it sucked to go down two goals right away. But, we knew as a team that no matter how we played, we had the confidence to get back into the game."
Also fittingly, it was goaltender Tyler Parson’s stop on Canada’s fifth shot of the shootout that was the final play of the game. Parsons, already a Memorial Cup Champion with the OHL’s London Knights in 2016, was absolutely spectacular in net for the United States, making 46 saves and then all five that he faced in the shootout to preserve the championship.
"It was a great atmosphere in the building," Parsons said. "It gave me chills. It's unbelievable to win this for your country."
Tyler Parsons with an incredible save in overtime kicking away the puck pic.twitter.com/4b1TfwaTPj— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 6, 2017
New York Islanders 1st rounder Kieffer Bellows had two goals for the U.S., while Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins had a goal and assist and Adam Fox of the Calgary Flames picked up three helpers. Edmonton Oilers prospect Caleb Jones played the most ice time for his club, clocking in at 36:01.
It’s the first gold medal for the United States at the World Juniors since 2013, and their third since 2010. That 2010 game is notable for being the last times that these two teams met in the gold medal game, with the United States winning that one as well, thanks to a John Carlson shot in overtime.
Those two blown leads, especially the one in the third period, will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the Canadian team for a long, long time. They had the game on their sticks and a roaring home crowd behind them, but both times were incapable of successfully holding the Americans at bay. They produced numerous other chances for themselves after the game was tied up but weren’t able to capitalize on them.
Thomas Chabot, who was deservedly named tournament MVP after finishing with 10 points in 7 games, saved his best match of the World Juniors for last, scoring a goal an assist while logging an eye-popping 43:53 of ice time. He was dangerous and a difference-maker every time that he touched the puck. Jeremy Lauzon, Mathieu Joseph and Nicolas Roy had the other goals for the Canadians.
"I'm proud of what I've done in this tournament, but it's so hard to lose this game,” said Chabot. “I put everything I could into representing my country as well as I could and help the team win. I may have got the MVP, but I'm heartbroken. It's very difficult right now."
Regardless of how much disappointment they’re feeling right now, the Canadian team should still hold their heads high because of the fantastic effort that they put forth in the game and the tournament at large, especially after knocking off a great Swedish team yesterday to get to this point. A silver medal in a tournament like this is never something to be ashamed of.
The rivalry between these two teams, of course, doesn’t end here, as it never does after a single game. The next time that they will face each other? At the 2018 World Juniors in Buffalo. In an outdoor game.
Bronze Medal Game: Russia 2, Sweden 1 (OT)
For the second game in a row the Russians found themselves in a tie game heading into overtime.
This time, however, they got the result that they were looking for.
Denis Guryanov scored the game-winning goal just 33 seconds into the extra frame, forcing an offensive zone turnover and burying the puck on his backhand to secure a 2-1 victory over Sweden in the bronze medal match-up.
It was an emotional, fitting tournament finale for the 2015 Dallas Stars 1st rounder, who scored two regulation goals and added two more in the shootout on Wednesday against the United States, a game that his team would end up losing. Kirill Kaprizov had his team’s other goal, finalizing his tournament lead with nine in total.
The third notable hero for Russia, and the biggest of the three, was goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who was absolutely phenomenal in net, stopping 38 of 39 shots. His performance was made especially impressive as he appeared to be playing through an injury for much of the game, showing signs of being in pain and repeatedly being slow to get to his feet.
Despite entering the tournament with aspirations of gold, the Russians can nevertheless take pride in themselves for playing another spirited game today and walking away with the bronze hardware to show for it.
"Our players were completely exhausted last night after losing -- physically and emotionally -- but we battled to the very end,” said Kaprizov. “We knew a bronze medal is still a medal to be proud of."
For many members of the Swedish team, this might be the toughest 24-hour stretch of their lives. They were one of the tournament favorites coming in, and looked nigh-unbeatable in the preliminary rounds, only to fall twice over the past two days.
They were actually the better of the two teams in this game, out-shooting the Russians 39-26, but they couldn’t gain the ever-important advantage on the scoreboard. They’ll head home empty-handed, wondering how things fell apart so quickly.
"We won the first two practice games before the tournament and the five first games in the tournament," said Jonathan Dahlen, who had the lone Swedish goal. "We won seven out of nine games but we’re standing here without a medal. Something was wrong. It’s a huge disappointment."