The curtain closed on the 2012 World Junior Championships last night in dramatic fashion, with two Blackhawks prospects playing for Team Sweden in the gold medal game.
Team USA concluded their stay at the tournament Wednesday evening with a tight 2-1 victory over Switzerland, finishing seventh overall in the competition. All three goals were scored in the first period and the game-winner came from defenseman Kevin Gravel, with Blackhawks prospect Adam Clendening getting an assist on the goal.
In a thrilling gold medal game, Team Sweden dominated the first two periods of play, outshooting Russia 39-4 and not allowing a single shot against for the first 12 minutes of the game. Blackhawks draft picks Joakim Nordstrom and Ludvig Rensfeldt did not play on a line together for the first time in six games, as Rensfeldt was given a more offensive role. Nordstrom spent most of his ice time matched up against Russia’s top line, which featured team captain Yevgeni Kuznetsov and Nail Yakupov.
Although Sweden outshot Russia 50-16 through the end of regulation, the game remained scoreless in a classic goaltender’s duel. At 10:09 of sudden-death overtime, Ottawa prospect Mika Zibanejad pounced on a Russian turnover and flipped a backhand shot over Russian goalie Andrei Makarov to win the game 1-0, ending Sweden’s 31-year gold medal drought at World Juniors.
TEAM USA (1-3 in preliminary games, 2-0 in the relegation round)
Adam Clendening, D: Clendening displayed his passing and shooting instincts and consistently looked to send the puck up the ice. He was a mainstay on Team USA’s top power play unit as the lone defenseman on the point, and ended the tournament with one goal, five assists and a +2 plus-minus rating in six games.
Stephen Johns, D: A physical presence, Johns partnered with the offensively inclined Clendening for most of the preliminary round before injuries forced some changes in blueline personnel. He registered a goal and an assist in the tournament and finished with an even rating.
Brandon Saad, LW: Saad was tied for fourth on Team USA in scoring with six points (1G, 5A), seeing time on all four forward lines. He showcased strong play at 5-on-5 and with the man advantage, and led all American skaters with a +8 rating in the tournament.
TEAM SWEDEN (6-0)
Johan Mattsson, G: Did not play.
Joakim Nordstrom, C: Strong two-way hockey was Nordstrom’s calling card throughout the tournament, as he starred primarily in a checking role but managed to score a goal in each of his first four games. Wearing an ‘A’ for Team Sweden, Nordstrom saw quality minutes at even strength and on both special teams, and finished with five points (4G, 1A) and a +6 rating.
Ludvig Rensfeldt, LW: Rensfeldt found his groove early in the tournament, especially with the man advantage, where he utilized the extra space to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. He ended the tournament with a +2 rating, one goal and five helpers, ranking second on the team in the latter category.