CHN Staff Report
Boston College’s Spencer Knight was the biggest hero in a team full of them Tuesday, stopping 33 shots to lead the United States to a 2-0 win over Canada to take gold at the World Junior Championship.
It’s the fifth gold medal for Team USA at the World Juniors, including four since 2010, the most of any country. It’s the fifth time the U.S. and Canada met for a gold medal, with the Americans winning the last four of those.
Trevor Zegras and Alex Turcotte, who each played one season in the NCAA last season before going pro, scored the Team USA goals. In all, 22 of the 25 players on the roster are in college hockey, the most of any of the Americans’ gold-medal-winning teams.
Zegras wound up as the top scorer in the tournament. He made waves before the game when he defiantly said that Canada hadn’t been tested yet.
“I was made aware of it. I loved it,” U.S. coach Nate Leaman said. “It was honest. He showed up in every game we played and he was MVP of the tournament. He was great off the puck and that helped our team so much.”
The U.S. controlled the play for most of the first and second period in building the 2-0 lead, stunning a Canadian team that waltzed its way to the final with little trouble. Canada defeated Russia, 5-0, in the semis. The U.S. lost to Russia in the opening game of the Round Robin, but then went on a roll, and defeated Finland, 4-3, in the semis.
But Canada poured it on in the third period. Though the U.S. was able to keep Canada to the outside for a lot of that time, the Canadians eventually did break through with numerous Grade-A chances as time ticked down. For the period, Canada outshot Team USA, 15-1, with Knight making a number of big-time stops.
It’s the first shutout in a medal round game in U.S. World Junior history. In all, Knight had three shutouts in the tournament, a U.S. record.
Team USA head coach Nate Leaman became the third person to win an NCAA and World Junior championship, joining Dean Blais and Mike Eaves. Eaves won the U.S.’s first gold, in 2004, before leading Wisconsin to the NCAA title in 2006. Blais won NCAA championships with North Dakota in 1997 and 2000 and later won the World Juniors in 2010. Current Minnesota coach Bob Motzko also led the U.S. to a gold medal, as did former NHL coach Phil Housley, who has no NCAA connections.
The U.S. won the tournament despite many obstacles, some of which were dealt with by all the teams. The entire tournament was played inside a bubble, but there were strict protocols before entering, and those prevented a key piece, Michigan forward Johnny Beecher, from joining the team. Also, three Boston University players who were expected to make the team all had to be excluded because of coronavirus issues at BU.