I admit right now, I stole that title from Stephen Nelson, the play-by-play man calling the USA game for the NHL Network.
Today was medal day at the 2021 World Junior Championship. Russia and Finland would tangle for bronze while the Americans and Canadians would do battle for gold.
First, to the bronze medal game. Finland defeated Russia, 4-1 to claim bronze for the first time since 2006. Russia went medal-less for only the second time in the last 11 tournaments.
The Russians got on the board first when Ilya Safonov scored 6:03 into the contest. Maxim Groshev had the lone assist on what would turn out to be the only Russian goal of the evening.
In the second period, Anton Lundell tied things 5:05 into the new frame. He got assists from Matias Mantykivi and Topi Niemela.
The third period featured Mikko Petman scoring 1:13 in to give the Finns their first lead of the afternoon. Samuel Helenius and Eemil Viro had the assists.
The Russians would then pull goaltender Yaroslav Askarov with just over a minute to go in the game. Lundell would score into the empty net for his second of the game unassisted to make it 3-1 at 18:32.
Off the faceoff, Russia would pull Askarov again and this time, Juuso Parssinen scored into the vacated cage to make it 4-1 Finland. Mikael Pyyhtia had the assist. The Finns had notched two empty netters in the course of almost a minute, as this goal came at the 19:47 mark.
And that was it. The Finns ended up with 32 shots to Russia’s 29. Both Askarov and Finnish goalie Kari Piiroinen had 28 saves.
So, Finland are the 2021 World Junior Championship Bronze Medalists and Russia finishes just out of contention – a hard place to be no doubt.
Shakir Mukhamadullin had two shots on goal and was a minus-2 in 19:27 of total ice time. Arseni Gritsyuk did not play for Russia.
But now on to the game that would decide the World Junior champions for the year, as North American rivals Canada and the United States got set to go.
This seemed like a daunting task for the Americans as the Canadians had outscored their opponents by a whopping margin of 41-4 and had never even trailed in the tournament.
Canada was on home ice and looked to be the overwhelming favorites. But the US had had some trials of their own, losing to Russia in the opener and then coming back to win their group and the challenges of Slovakia and Finland in the medal rounds were enough, it seemed, to steel them for battle.
And it only took two, well actually one. Alex Turcotte, after the US came out flying and really applying pressure to the Canadians in their own end, scored from Trevor Zegras and Drew Helleson to make it 1-0 USA just 13:25 into the game.
And that one would hold up as the game-winner.
Zegras scored 32 seconds into the second period from Arthur Kaliyev to make it 2-0, this was just (an important) insurance goal.
American goaltender Spencer Knight stood on his head all night long. Late in the third, he stopped Canada’s Connor McMichael on a breakaway, giving him no space to shoot at and stoning him, preserving the shutout.
The Canadians pulled goalie Devon Levi late, but to no avail. The Americans were the gold medal winners while Canada – the 2020 defending champs – took home silver.
Canada outshot the US 34 to 21, which just shows how locked in Knight was and how great the Americans played defensively. Levi made 19 saves while Knight turned aside all 34 he saw.
Dawson Mercer had a shot on net with an even plus/minus rating in 9:13 of ice time. Patrick Moynihan, who did return in the last game against Finland (I was wrong), was an even plus/minus and did not register a shot in 11:55 of time on ice.
So, that wraps up the 2021 World Junior Championship from Edmonton. Congratulations to the medalists and all of the participants in the tournament, you really put on a great show in the last two weeks.
Next week, Devils hockey returns!