The United States National Junior Team captured its third gold medal in the history of the World Junior Championship on Saturday behind timely goal-scoring and another fantastic effort from goalie John Gibson in a 3-1 victory against Sweden in Ufa, Russia.
Rocco Grimaldi, Team USA's player of the game, scored a pair of second-period goals and Gibson made it stand behind 26 saves.
The United States also received great work from its penalty killers against the quick and dangerous Swedish forwards. Sweden finished the game with one goal on the man advantage in three power-play opportunities.
The United States closed out the tournament with the highest penalty-killing percentage, yielding just three power-play goals in 28 chances. The Americans won their first gold since scoring a 6-5 overtime decision against Canada in the 2010 WJC finale in Saskatoon. Sweden, which won the gold medal in Calgary last year following an overtime verdict against Russia, earned its 10th silver medal at the WJC.
The Swedes pulled goalie Niklas Lundstrom with 1:35 remaining in the third to gain the extra attacker, but the United States clogged up the middle of the ice and kept the Sweden to the perimeter before Vince Trocheck took an outlet pass from J.T. Miller and scored into an empty net with 16.7 seconds remaining.
Gibson's best save of the game might have been five minutes into the third and his team holding a 2-1 lead when 2013 draft-eligible forward Viktor Arvidsson skated hard into the offensive zone before curling the cage and attempting a wraparound that the Anaheim Ducks prospects stopped with his right pad.
Filip Sandberg, who had given Sweden a 1-0 lead early in the second, also had a good opportunity with seven minutes left in the third off a quick shot from between the circles that Gibson calmly denied.
U.S. defenseman Connor Murphy then helped out his goalie with less than six minutes left when he blocked an attempt off the stick of Swedish scoring leader Sebastian Collberg from the left circle.
Grimaldi made his presence felt for the United States in the second period, scoring a pair of second-period goals to rally the Americans to a 2-1 lead.
Grimaldi's second of the game came off a tip in the slot. Jacob Trouba fired a rocket from the right point that Grimaldi deftly deflected past Lundstrom 10:27 into the period to give the United States its first lead.
The Swedes came close to squaring the contest while shorthanded when Anaheim Ducks prospect William Karlsson broke in on Gibson off a turnover, but was denied with less than five minutes left in the second.
The United States pulled into a 1-1 tie 7:42 into the second when Grimaldi connected for his first of the tournament on a great individual effort. The Florida Panthers prospect raced to a loose puck behind Sweden's net before skating out beyond the left post and firing a shot that skittered over Lundstrom's right pad before dropping over the line.
The goals came after Grimaldi had hit both goalposts on a scoring chance with 7:40 left in the first period.
Sweden opened a 1-0 edge 1:09 into the second on Sandberg's second goal of the tournament. While working its second power play of the game, Trouba attempted to swat the puck out of the zone from the right corner but the Swedes picked it up and Sandberg found the puck between the circles in prime scoring position.
His quick wrist shot beat Gibson on his glove side just under the crossbar.
The Swedes were forced to kill off a pair of power plays by the United States in the opening period, including a two-man advantage for 35 seconds with Jeremy Boyce Rotevall (interference) and Viktor Arvidsson (high sticking) in the box. Lundstrom had a strong first period, turning aside 11 shots, including Miller's rebound attempt with the Americans on a 5-on-4 advantage.
With 7:40 remaining in the first Grimaldi skated down his left wing and released a shot that rang off the post to Lundstrom's blocker side.
The United States denied Sweden's first power-play attempt 13:32 into the first when team goal-scoring leader John Gaudreau was whistled for hooking. The United States has been exceptional on the penalty-kill at the WJC. The country didn't allow a power-play goal against Germany, held Canada scoreless with the man advantage twice and the Czech Republic, while allowing single power-play markers to Russia and Slovakia.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer