"He's an unbelievable goalie. He kept us in it a lot. Those two goals were good goals by a feisty team. He kept us in there when we needed him most, that's the most important thing, making the last save and he did that."
-- John Carlson on Jack Campbell
When Dean Blais yanked Mike Lee 3:56 into the second period, he said it "broke my heart" to do it, but it was Jack Campbell who held the fort for most of the night and helped the U.S. win its second-ever World Junior Championship gold medal.
Campbell relieved a shaky Lee, who surrendered three goals on seven shots, and stopped 32 of 34 shots -- including a number of game-changing stops. Most memorable was a sequence in the first 90 seconds of the third period when he stopped Nazem Kadri from point-blank range and then sprawled to deny Taylor Hall on the rebound. His save also started the play that led to John Carlson's winning goal 4:21 into overtime, giving the Americans a stunning 6-5 win.
"He's an unbelievable goalie," Carlson said of the 17-year-old. "He kept us in it a lot. Those two goals were good goals by a feisty team. He kept us in there when we needed him most, that's the most important thing, making the last save and he did that."
Campbell, the second-youngest player on the team, was in the crucible once before against Canada, taking the five-time defending champions to a shootout on New Year's Eve. On Tuesday, he was just a little bit better.
"I tried to stay more poised, don't get rattled at all," said Campbell when asked what he learned from that Dec. 31 game. "Things will take care of themselves and my teammates will take care of me."
Campbell admitted he was a bit shocked when Blais tapped him to go in.
"I was a little surprised," he said. "I wasn't sure what they were going to do. The way we prepare, the way we've been preparing the last two years in Ann Arbor (Mich., home of the U.S. National Team Development Program) is be ready for any situation -- and that's what happened tonight. Mike took us through this tournament, he was unbelievable. When I had to step up and help my team, I did. When they had to step up and help me, they did."
Blais, who admittedly has a close relationship with Lee, said he had no problem with the difficult decision because of how well Campbell has played.
"Jack, even though he is young, has played a lot of goal," Blais said. "Obviously he's very, very talented. He was in the net when the U.S. won the (World 18 and Under Championship) last year in Fargo, which I witnessed. I was so impressed with his play."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org