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Bronze victory caps memorable U.S. run at world championship

Assembled by Blue Jackets assistant GM Bill Zito, Team USA earns medal with another win vs. Canada.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

This past winter, Jim Johannson had fun informing players they'd been chosen to represent the United States for the men's hockey team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Johannson, USA Hockey's executive director prior to his unexpected death Jan. 21, called every player on the team, which was comprised of non-NHL players per the league's decision to not participate. Each call Johansson made was emotional, which he loved.

The emotions were on the other end of the phone when Blue Jackets assistant general manager Bill Zito made those calls this spring, while putting together a U.S. roster for the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship in Denmark.

"It was the other way around for me," joked Zito, who was chosen to be GM for the U.S. team, which won the bronze medal Sunday with a 4-1 victory against Canada in Copenhagen. "It was me calling the guys back a few times or the guy wouldn't even take my call."

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One tough 'cookie': OSU student aiming for gaming world title

Matt Gutkoski, aka 'Top Shelf Cookie' headed to Connecticut for regional round of new tournament.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Easter dinner was in full swing and the Gutkoskis, of Lewis Center, were enjoying the day.

Matt Gutkoski, however, had a slight issue. Time was ticking, there was an important hockey game he needed to play and the 20-year old Ohio State marketing student excused himself with an awkward explanation that included a video game in the basement.

Top Shelf Cookie full bio

"I was at Easter dinner and I was like, 'Hey guys, I'm really sorry, but I've got to leave right now,'" said Gutkoski, who became one of eight online competitors who qualified for the American regional in the 2018 NHL Gaming World Championships on Sunday at NBC Sports studio in Stamford, Conn. "It's hard to explain, because I was like, 'Hey, I'm going to play a video game.' It was like, 'Uh … OK.'"

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'WORLDS' RESET: Atkinson, Dubois help U.S. and Canada advance

Each scored a goal in quarterfinal victories; Nutivaara scores in Finland loss

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Five Blue Jackets players are moving onto the semifinal stage of the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship and the offseason has officially begun for four others.

After an exciting day of hockey Thursday in Denmark, which was filled with one-goal games, the Blue Jackets had more to be happy about, including performances by Cam Atkinson of the U.S. and Canada's Pierre-Luc Dubois - who each scored goals to help their teams advance to the semifinals Saturday at Royal Arena in Copenhagen.

Atkinson's goal was his seventh of the tournament, scored in a 3-2 victory against the Czech Republic, while Dubois scored his third goal in eight games for Canada, which edged Russia 5-4 in overtime.

"It's huge," Atkinson said of U.S. win, which guaranteed the Americans will at least play for a medal. "Like I said before this game, we're a confident bunch. We were up 2-0 [in the first period]. They're obviously a good team, so they were resilient and came back. We just found a way to get it done and we're ready for the next challenge ahead of us."

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Catching up with Cam: jersey numbers, staying hot and going for gold

Jackets forward happy with his play, new number and the chance to earn a medal.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Like his Blue Jackets teammates, Cam Atkinson wasn't ready for the season to end.

After missing more than a month's worth of games because of two injury issues, not to mention a frustrating start to the season statistically, Atkinson was ready for more after Columbus was eliminated by the Washington Capitals in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He was invited to join the U.S. contingent in Denmark for the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship and didn't need much prodding from Bill Zito, the Blue Jackets' assistant general manager who constructed Team USA's roster as its general manager for the tournament.

It turned out to be a great decision by Atkinson, who's had a new jersey number in Denmark (89), but similar results to the final two-plus months of the season. After racking up 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in the final 33 games of the regular season, and adding four more in the playoffs (two goals, two assists), Atkinson hasn't missed a beat.

Heading into a quarterfinal matchup against the Czech Republic on Thursday in Herning, he's tied for sixth in overall scoring with 10 points (six goals, four assists) and is playing on the top line with Chicago Blackhawks star right wing Patrick Kane, the U.S. captain.

Following Team USA's loss to Finland on Tuesday, BlueJackets.com caught up with Atkinson by phone for an interview. Here's how it went:

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WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: U.S. not shy about goal in Denmark: win for 'J.J.'

Zito, Atkinson and Milano gearing up for quarterfinals with Jim Johannson in mind.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

The elephant residing in Team USA's locker room at the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship is the center of attention.

They're playing to honor the memory of Jim Johannson, the beloved former USA Hockey executive director, whose sudden death Jan. 21 at age 53 shocked the hockey world.

"It's out there now," said Bill Zito, Blue Jackets' assistant general manager and GM of the U.S. team. "It's no longer the ever-present elephant in the room. We took our team picture [Monday], and 'J.J.' had a spot in the middle of the front row. We talk about him all the time. We celebrate him. It went from being that unspoken thing to, 'Don't forget that we're going to try to win for 'J.J.'"

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'WORLDS' RESET: Atkinson still hot, helping U.S. stay atop standings

Blue Jackets' forward tied for first with six goals, fifth in overall scoring.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Six games into the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship, nothing is rotten in the state of Denmark for Cam Atkinson or the United States.

Led by Atkinson and his linemate, U.S. captain Patrick Kane, the United States has yet to taste defeat in Group B play - which is being held at Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, Denmark.

After six games, Atkinson was tied for the tournament lead in goals with six and also had 10 points, which was tied for fifth in overall scoring with the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid. Kane, who's won the Stanley Cup three times with Chicago Blackhawks, led all scorers with 15 points (five goals, 10 assists).

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Clark will not return as Blue Jackets goaltending coach

GM Kekalainen says decision to not renew contract, after seasons, was mutual.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

After seven seasons working with Blue Jackets netminders, goaltending coach Ian Clark's tenure with the franchise is coming to a close.

Clark will not sign a new contract with the Blue Jackets after his current deal ends July 1, which was a "mutual decision," according to general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who is in Denmark attending the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship.

"It was just time for both sides to go in a new direction," Kekalainen said.

That decision means next season will be the first time goalies Sergei Bobrovsky and backup Joonas Korpisalo will work with someone other than Clark in Columbus.

"This is not a negative story," Clark told Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, who first reported the news Friday. "I'm ready to move on, take on some new challenges. It's time. Sometimes change is good."

Clark told the Athletic in a report Friday that he began telling people with the team about the decision earlier this month and that he will soon meet with John Davidson, the president of hockey operations. 

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'WORLDS' RESET: Cam, Dubois keep rolling for U.S. and Canada

Atkinson nets another game-winner for Team USA; Dubois, Murray help Canada down Norway.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

He did it again.

After helping the United States win its first preliminary-round game in a shootout at the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship, Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson won another game for the U.S. on Thursday at Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, Denmark.

Atkinson's power-play goal, scored at 1:23 into 3-on-3 overtime off a great pass from Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau, lifted Team USA to a 3-2 victory against Latvia, which pushed the U.S. to the brink of its first loss in the tournament with a strong effort by Blue Jackets goalie prospect Elvis Merzlikins.

"It wasn't my best game, but we got a lot of chances on the power play," Atkinson said during a postgame interview conducted by the IIHF. "I thought we were moving the puck around well and right place, right time. Johnny made a great pass and I just happened to score."

READ MORE: Atkinson's heroics highlight Day 1 at Worlds

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Vietnam vets made surprising discovery as Jackets season-ticket holders

Elk & Elk military honoree served in same brigade, division in Vietnam as seat neighbor.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Fred Haefner and John Widener have long been hockey fans.

Prior to meeting each other as original Blue Jackets season-ticket holders in 2000, each was a season-ticket holder for the area's former minor-league franchises: the Columbus Checkers, Columbus Golden Seals, Columbus Owls and Columbus Chill.

That, however, wasn't the only thing they had in common. As it turned out, after getting to know each other as Jackets fans whose season tickets were located next to each other in Section 209, they also discovered a military bond.

"We just got to know each other at the games," said Widener, who served in Vietnam with the Army from November 1967 to November 1968. "Then, we had a military appreciation night and I wore this hat in, which is my 9th Division hat, and he wore his in. I said, 'Hey, I was in the third of the 47th [infantry]' and he said, 'I was too!'"

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'WORLDS' RESET: Bjorkstrand helps Denmark edge Nutivaara and Finland

Jackets' forward scored in Danes' 3-2 win; Finnish defenseman extends point streak.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Cam Atkinson  and Pierre-Luc Dubois  have stolen the spotlight for the Blue Jackets at the 2018 IIHF Men's World Championship in Denmark, but two of their teammates had the stage Wednesday.

Finland's Markus Nutivaara  and Denmark's Oliver Bjorkstrand  faced off at Jyske Bank Boxen in the second preliminary game of the day in Group B, with Bjorkstrand scoring his first goal of the tournament to help the Danes earn a big 3-2 victory.

READ MORE: Bjorkstrand thrilled playing for Denmark, in his hometown

Nutivaara extended his point streak to four games to start the tournament by assisting on a game-tying goal by Minnesota Wild center Mikael Granlund in the third period, after racking up two goals and two assists in the first three games.

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