Team USA captured the gold medal at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, securing a 2-0 victory over Canada on Tuesday evening. With the loss, Canada won the silver medal, while Finland beat Russia earlier in the day to snag the bronze.
Entering Tuesday evening’s game, it was an uphill battle for the Americans. They’d done well in group play and throughout the tournament, but now had to face an incredibly strong Canadian team. Although the game started off a little rough, Team USA quickly proved its worth and took control en route to the win.
Let’s put it this way: Canada had not allowed an even-strength goal all tournament entering Tuesday. They’d also scored first in every game this tournament, and hadn’t been held more than four minutes or so into a game without a goal.
All of that changed on Tuesday.
Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings) opened the scoring with a goal more than midway through the first period, when the Americans were beginning to find their legs and put quality chances on net. They also had a crucial penalty kill later in the period; being able to stimy Canada’s offense put them in a good position heading into the middle frame.
Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) doubled their lead early in the second period, and it was all about maintaining the lead from there. Spencer Knight saved all 34 shots he faced to nab the first shutout at a World Juniors gold medal game since 2012.
Sabres prospect Ryan Johnson played 16:14 in the gold medal game and recorded one shot on goal. On the other side of things, Dylan Cozens had a relatively quiet game aside from a few good chances; he recorded one shot and played 21:27 alongside Connor McMichael and Jakob Pelletier. Jack Quinn was benched for much of the game and played just 9:13.
Earlier in the day, Finland defeated Russia by a score of 4-1 to capture the bronze medal, but it was a much closer game than the final score would seem to suggest.
Russia held a 1-0 lead for a bit, thanks to a goal from Ilya Safonov. Finnish captain Anton Lundell stepped up to tie the game early in the second period, and Mikko Petman broke the stalemate just 1:13 into the third period. Finland then added two empty-net goals, from Lundell & Juuso Parssinen, to secure their victory.
To little surprise, Zegras was named tournament MVP after recording 18 points. Cozens finished the tournament with 16 points, and now he & Quinn are coming to Buffalo for Sabres camp and the NHL season that lies ahead.