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2015 World Junior Championship Update

by Alyssa Romeo / Colorado Avalanche

Colorado Avalanche prospect and University of Denver sophomore defenseman Will Butcher represented the United States at this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, Canada. The World Juniors consisted of 31 games between 10 national teams, with each country's roster made up of its top under-20 hockey talent. The tournament was from Friday, Dec 26, 2014 to Monday, Jan 5, 2015. Butcher, a 19-year-old Wisconsin native, entered the tournament with 10 goals and 14 assists in 53 total college games at DU. He was selected by the Avalanche in the 2013 NHL Draft (123rd overall) and was an alternate captain on this year’s United States team. Below is a game-by-game recap of Butcher and Team USA at the 2015 World Junior Championship.

Quarterfinals

Friday, January 2, 2015

Russia (3) vs. United States (2)

No. 2-seeded United States of Group A fell 3-2 to No. 3-seeded Russia of Group B on Friday, knocking the Americans out of the World Juniors for the second year in a row in the quarterfinals. In an emotional game for the U.S., the Russians scored two of their three goals while USA players were serving penalties. The Russians are now in the running for a fifth medal in the past five years.

The first period decided the fate for the Americans, as they had to play catch-up for the remainder of the game. With a high-sticking penalty on the U.S., Russia profited on the advantage, scoring at 2:31 in the first period. In the last five minutes of the opening frame, the Russians scored again—this time just after a power play had ended—to extend their lead to 2-0 over USA.

The first goal for the Americans came at 12:43 in the second period during a two-man advantage, with Avalanche prospect Will Butcher registering an assist on the tally. With the score 2-1, the U.S. saw multiple opportunities to tie the game in the middle stanza but couldn't catch a break or find the back of the net.

Opening the third period, the United States fell down again to an ill-timed penalty as Russia tallied on the power play at 1:27. The Americans scored the final goal of the game at 8:56, closing the gap to 3-2. Team USA called a timeout with 31 seconds left, gaining some valuable rest before continuing its pursuit of a game-tying goal. Despite multiple chances in the closing seconds, Russia held on and forced the United States out of the tournament.

There is no doubt the United States did its best to fight back, outshooting the Russians by a whopping 41-25 margin, but it couldn't match Russia where it counted on the scoreboard.

Butcher also added three shots in the game and finished the tournament with a plus-2 rating and nine shots on goal. The defenseman was also named one of the top three USA players at the World Junior Championship by tournament coaches.

Butcher will now return to the University of Denver to finish his sophomore season with the Pioneers.

Preliminary Round

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Canada (5) vs. United States (3)
 
In a fight for the No. 1 position in Group A, Canada walked away as the victor with a 5-3 win over the United States on New Year’s Eve at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The loss was the first for the Americans while Canada is now running a perfect 4-0 at the World Juniors.
 
The United States was behind 3-1 less than four minutes into the third period, but the U.S. would not give up and scored to close the gap. The Canadians retaliated with an empty-net goal to make the score 4-2, but the game was far from over. The roundabout third period resulted in the Americans scoring in the final minute of the game to cut the deficit back to one goal, but Canada responded with another empty-netter in the final four seconds to secure the victory.
 
The nail-biting race between the North American rivals was stacked with talent from both countries and included two potential No. 1 picks for 2015 NHL Draft playing against each other: Canada’s Connor McDavid and USA’s Jack Eichel.
 
The hype between the two competitive teams was only heightened with big hits and fast pucks from both countries. Avalanche prospect Will Butcher was part of one of these big hits, enclosing Canada’s McDavid up against fellow teammate Ryan Collins.
 
The United States finished second in the group and will face Russia, the No. 3 team from Group B, in the quarterfinals on Friday.

Monday, December 29, 2014

United States (3) vs. Slovakia (0)

The United States picked up its second straight shutout victory at the World Junior Championship on Monday with a 3-0 win over Slovakia at Bell Centre in Montreal.

A roundabout duel during the first period left both teams tied 0-0 going into the second. With 2:18 left in an intense middle frame, USA put itself on the scoreboard with a shot that got past Slovak goalie Denis Godla short side. Only one goal was scored by the U.S. in the second period, but its momentum did not stop there as Team USA tallied another goal in the first three minutes of the third.

The score was stuck at 2-0 until the last goal of the game went flying past Slovakia with 53 seconds left in the game.

The third-period goals helped secure the win for the Americans, their third consecutive victory at the tournament. The U.S. fed its hunger to win by attempting 45 shots on goal, while Slovakia only had 17 shots.

Avalanche prospect Will Butcher completed the game with a plus-2 rating.

The United States will be competing for first place in Group A on Wednesday at 2 p.m. MT against host Canada.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

United States (6) vs. Germany (0)

The Germans have not caught a break so far at the 2015 World Junior Championship. Playing two nights in a row in Montreal, Germany has no doubt had a rough start after losing 4-0 to Canada on Saturday and then falling 6-0 to the United States on Sunday.

During Sunday’s game, USA dominated the ice by outscoring, outshooting and outplaying Germany in all three categories. The Americans outshot the Germans 53-14, nearly four times the shots on goal for Germany. Two goals were scored per period for the U.S., including two tallies and an assist by Dylan Larkin. His second goal was the last one of the contest and was scored with 20 seconds left in the third period, leading to the final shutout score.

Colorado prospect Will Butcher was on the ice for three of the United States’ goals.

Although a tough game to watch for German fans, Germany’s goalie Ilja Sharipov earned, and deserved, a standing ovation along with his team’s player of the game award for his valiant 47 saves.

The Americans have won both of their first two matches at World Juniors and will face Slovakia in their third contest on Monday.

Friday, December 26, 2014

United States (2) vs. Finland (1) - Shootout

The United States’ first contest in the championship was against 2014 gold-medal winner Finland, who beat host Sweden 3-2 in overtime last year. The Finns opened the 2015 tournament with another game that went beyond regulation, but it was the Americans that came away with a 2-1 shootout victory at Bell Centre in Montreal.

Avalanche prospect Will Butcher made a replay-worthy save by blocking an open-net shot in the final seconds of overtime, advancing the turbulent game into a shootout.

The close match ended when the U.S. scored twice in the tiebreaker over Finland.

The clutch block by Butcher, who also had three shots on goal, gave the U.S. a fighting chance to pick up the win and helped him earn the player of the game honor for the Americans.

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