The U18 World Championship came to a close on Sunday morning at the Fjällräven Center and for many, the youngsters surely did not disappoint as Team USA beat the Canadians 5-2 in a bronze medal thriller.
For Team Canada, it was their seventh time playing for a medal in nine years at the U18 Worlds, meanwhile, they finished up ranked in fourth place at this year’s tournament.
Alex Turcotte got things going for Team USA early on in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden when he converted on the power play just eight minutes into the game’s first period. 1-0 would remain the score for Team USA through majority of the frame, however, it wouldn’t last as Dylan Cozens beat Spencer Knight with just one minute left to knot the game up at 1.
This was only the start of things as the second period got underway, Jack Hughes finding the puck from Cam York seven minutes in, putting the Americans ahead for the second time with a 2-1 lead.
As the middle frame carried on, so did Team USA as both York and Bobby Brink would find the back of Team Canada’s net, both goals on the power play, giving the Americans a 4-1 lead. This would be all for the period as the Canadians continued to trail.
With the third period off to a quick start, the puck found its way back to the stick of Cam York who would strike again early in on the power play, sniping from the point and netting it past Nolan Meier. For York, it would be his second goal of the game, this time putting Team USA up 5-1 with some room to spare.
While it looked like the Canadians were out of energy and out of production, that certainly wouldn’t be the case with many thanks to Nathan Légaré who would slap one from the side-boards and right through a scuffle before beating Spencer Knight with just six seconds left.
The consultation goal would bring Canada up a point, now trailing the Americans 5-2 as the final seconds on the clock counted down. In spite of the loss to Team USA, Nolan Maier made 36 saves, however, it simply was not enough as the Canadians medal drought was stretched to four years.
Looking on the brighter side of things for Team Canada, Alex Newhook and Peyton Krebs were named scoring leaders, both finishing the U18 Championship having recorded a total of 10 points apiece. Newhook registered five goals and five assists while Krebs scored six goals and added four assists.
For Cozens, his first period goal was his fourth goal slapped in during the tournament, meanwhile, for Légaré, his third period goal was his fourth goal recorded as well. Nolan Meier made 16 saves in the first, but finished off strong with 36 overall.
To date, Team Canada has won seven medals at the U18 Championship, collecting three gold (2003, 2008, 2013), one silver (2005) and three bronze (2012, 2014, 2015) heading into this year’s complex contest. Canada went unbeaten in Group A play in the Worlds first round, going a perfect 4-0 with wins over Switzerland, Czech Republic, Belarus and Finland.
In addition to this, the Canadians also locked down a 3-1 victory over Team Latvia in the tournament’s quarter-final. Unfortunately, this would be the last bout of success they would see as Team Canada ended up falling in the semifinals 4-3 to Team Sweden. This is a tournament that Canada has not won gold at dating back to 2013.
Head coach Brett Gibson spoke after Sunday’s game about their performance where he said in a brief statement with regards to such on-ice success, “Over the last month it was been a great pleasure putting this team together and watching them grow as a group. The last 24 hours is a great example how quickly things happen in a short tournament. We competed hard five-on-five, but special teams were the difference in the Americans’ favour.”
Thomas Harley was next in line, joining the team from the OHL’s Steelheads, where he said when asked about the result that Team Canada pulled away with against Team USA, “We just didn’t play well enough tonight. The U.S. is a great team, they executed their game plan. We didn’t do a good enough defending and we just didn’t play as well enough as we needed to. At the end of the day the tournament is over and we have to learn from it.”
Canadian captain Peyton Krebs brought Team Canada’s media availability to a close when he said about the strides that were made en route to the beatdown against Team USA, “The guys put in a great effort and I can’t say enough good things about them. We’re a good character group and I’m proud of the guys. It’s been a month of building relationships and having fun, but in the end we did our best and that’s all we can do.”
For Team USA, it was the NHL’s number one draft pick leading the way as Jack Hughes recorded three points, giving him 20 total for the tournament. This is double what he recorded last year, registering a total of 18.
Given the two years combined, making for a total of 32 points, Hughes eclipsed the previous record of 31 set by Alex Ovechkin in 2002 and 2003. Not only that, but at the moment, Jack Hughes is ranked as NHL Central Scouting’s top North American prospect heading into the draft. That being said, the New Jersey Devils will have the first overall pick at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C.
With the 5-2 win in the books, Spencer Knight made 21 saves against the vicious Canadians en route to the victory. Up ahead is the Men’s World Championship taking place on May 10 in Slovakia where all games will be available for viewing on NHL Network and TSN.