The U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team rallied from a two-goal deficit before sealing the deal in overtime when defenseman Connor Murphy connected for his second goal of the game en route to a 4-3 victory against Sweden before 5,007 spectators on Sunday in the International Ice Hockey Federation U18 World Championship in Crimmitschau, Germany.
Murphy, who was named Player of the Game, received a pass from Robbie Russo at the left point before firing a wrist shot that was initially blocked. Murphy then retrieved the rebound and fired a slap shot 6:06 into the extra period to send the United States into a wild on-ice celebration.
Murphy, No. 25 on NHL Central Scouting's final list for the top North American skaters eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft, finished the tournament with 3 goals, 4 points and a plus-7 rating.
"This tournament is so competitive, with such great teams playing here for three weeks it's a grind," Murphy said. "We knew that it was the last time that most of us would be playing together and we just wanted to lay it out on the line for each other and win for each other."
The victory gave the U.S. its third straight gold medal and sixth in tournament history (2002, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011). The U.S. has captured a record eight consecutive medals at the U18 World Championship.
"We knew how talented Sweden was from past tournaments," said U.S. coach Ron Rolston. "This year, our players fought hard to come from behind and earn this gold medal."
Rolston, incidentally, became the only head coach in U.S. history to lead the U18 National Team to three straight gold medals. U.S. goalie John Gibson, who made 28 saves in the triumph, received the directorate award as the tournament's best goalie. Gibson, rated No. 1 among North American goalies eligible for the Entry Draft, was a perfect 6-0-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Gibson and forwards J.T. Miller, who finished the tournament with 4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points and a plus-8 rating, and Russo (1-7-8, plus-5 rating) were named Team USA's top three players.
The U.S. rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the third on goals by Murphy just 1:20 into the period and Reid Boucher with just 1:29 remaining. Forward Rocco Grimaldi (2-6-8, plus-5) flipped the puck to Murphy at the top of the right faceoff circle, where he snapped a quick shot for the score. Boucher's game-tying tally came after he skated into Sweden's zone, beat his defender and fired a rope that went off the far post and past Sweden goalie Niklas Lundstrom (37 saves).
"The fans really embraced this tournament, tonight's crowd was just unbelievable, and for the kids to be playing in that type of environment is a great experience," said Rolston.
Sweden jumped out to a quick lead when Filip Forsberg connected 3:24 into the first period. The U.S. squared the contest on a power-play goal by Jacob Trouba with just eight seconds remaining in the first -- off a feed from Murphy.
Sweden then outshot the Americans, 10-8, in the second and grabbed a 3-1 lead in the process on goals by Albin Blomkvist at 12:21 and Gustav Bjorklund at 17:50. Bjorklund finished the tournament with a team-leading 5 goals.
In the bronze medal game, Russia's Nail Yakupov scored 3 goals and Nikita Kucherov hit twice to lead their team to a 6-4 victory over Team Canada. Kucherov, with 18 points in six games, was chosen as the tournament's top forward. Team Canada's Ryan Murphy, who had a goal and three assists in the bronze medal game, was selected best defenseman, and Team USA's Gibson best goalie.
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