Yes we did! - Bruce Bennett
Team USA wins the Gold, Sweden claims the Silver, and our franchise wins both.
Well, that's it. Team USA beat Team Sweden 3-1 to win the Gold Medal at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Sweden played the neutral zone-heavy, puck possession game that most expected. As a result both teams remained scoreless at the first intermission, failing to capitalize on multiple power play opportunities during the first stanza.
The first goal of the game came at the beginning of the second period, and was scored by Swedish forward Filip Sandberg. The Swedish power play finally reared its head, the result of a phantom goalie interference call on Team USA forward Cole Bardreau.
I'll admit: after this happened, my inner irrational hockey fan began to panic. In previous tournament games, Team USA was 0-2 after letting their opposition score first. I became terrified that they were allowing their golden opportunity to slip away. The only silver lining was that Rickard Rakell was credited for the assist.
But then, Rocco Grimaldi (the 5'6'' forward from Rossmoor, CA) woke up, scoring two goals - including the game-winning goal - within three minutes. Sweden never recovered, and USA forward Vince Trocheck gift wrapped the victory with an empty net goal in the game's final seconds.
The awards didn't stop there: our own John Gibson was named the tournament's MVP, following in the footsteps of Carey Price (let's forget that Steve Mason also won this award). Gibson was also selected as the tournament's top goalie, and named to its All-Star team.
Only time will tell, but I feel like this game will eventually be regarded as a watershed moment in the development in American hockey. The men on the team came from 15 different states. Up front, we did not have an answer to Team Canada's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (who was named the tournament's best forward) but we showed that expecting everyone to contribute and scoring by committee could pay huge dividends.
We also showed that responsible defense and inspired goaltending - not bone-crushing, illegal hits - wins championships. This tournament has been good for visibility of college hockey. In addition to already buzzed about players like defensemen Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba, the tournament introduced international hockey audiences to players like Grimaldi, Boston College's Johnny Gaudreau, and Cornell's Cole Bardreau (an undrafted free agent who also wore the A for USA). Union College's Shayne Gostisbehere and Harvard's Jimmy Vesey also impressed (go ECAC!).
There were disappointing moments in this tournament as well. Despite strong play from Joel Armia, Finland found themselves in the relegation round, ultimately finishing seventh. Team Canada went home empty-handed for the first time since 1998, the logical result of assembling team that was more sandpaper than skill. Yet, they blamed their struggles on goaltender Malcolm Subban, who was the recipient of a lot of unfortunate racial abuse on Twitter. But Subban had the last laugh, playing brilliantly in relief of Jordan Binnington as Canada lost to Russia 6-5 in overtime of the Bronze Medal game.
As for the title of this piece - no one really knows what caused the NHL and PA to come to an agreement in the middle of the night. But I wouldn't be surprised if watching the World Juniors gave Gary Bettman and Don Fehr hope for the future, and a desire to get the season going.