For the second straight year, a Coyotes prospect brought home a gold medal from hockey's most esteemed junior tournament.
John Farinacci, a third-round selection (No. 76 overall) in the 2019 draft, won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Tournament Tuesday night.
"Honestly, it still really hasn't settled in," Farinacci said. "I definitely still am pretty speechless about the whole thing. I remember thinking on the ice, 'I can't believe this is happening.' And it still doesn't feel real. It was an incredible honor to play for this team. We definitely created a special moment that we'll never forget."
Team USA defeated Canada, 2-0, in the gold medal game.
Farinacci was the final player on Team USA to touch the puck in the gold medal victory, dumping the puck into Canada's zone with just over five seconds remaining.
"I turned around, looked up at the clock, saw that the horn was about to go off," Farinacci said. "Just that feeling of all the stress and the nerves you've been dealing with in the last five minutes just released. You get to go celebrate with your brothers and give them hugs. What a moment, such an incredible moment."
His plans for his gold medal?
"In the short term, I think I'll keep it on my neck for the next couple weeks," Farinacci said. "I don't want to take that thing off. After that, it'll probably hang up in my dad's office along with the jersey. My dad is usually pretty creative with that stuff. I'm sure we'll figure out a way to get it hung up somewhere with the jersey, but for now, it'll definitely stay around my neck for the next little bit."
Farinacci finished the tournament tied for second on Team USA in goals (5) and tied for third in points (7). Last year, Coyotes forward Barrett Hayton captained Team Canada to a gold medal.
"I knew my role on the team," Farinacci said. "A third-line guy who could win face-offs, play minutes, block shots, play well defensively, on an energy line. I think the production, the goals and the assists, that kind of came with it. But it's definitely not something that I think about too much. I really just wanted to play my role and do my job to help the team win. Fortunately, it was able to happen."
General Manager Bill Armstrong liked what he saw from Farinacci.
"Farinacci has played well with Team USA," Armstrong said. "He continues to find a way to contribute, no matter where he is. He has great hockey sense. He's made some adjustments with his skating. He's been very good for them. I think (head coach) Nate Leaman and (assistant coach) Teddy Donato have put him in good situations."
Farinacci, a sophomore at Harvard University, was named to the ECAC Hockey All-Rookie Team in 2019-20. He was second in the ECAC freshman class with 22 conference points (10G, 12A).
It was a family affair for Farinacci and Team USA assistant coach Ted Donato. Donato is Farinacci's uncle, and also his head coach at Harvard. One of Farinacci's collegiate teammates, defenseman Henry Thrun, was on the Americans' roster as well.
Farinacci wasn't the only Coyotes prospect to medal. Forward Aku Raty, a fifth-round selection (No. 151) in the 2019 draft, registered three points (1G, 2A) in seven games en route to a bronze medal with Team Finland.
Victor Soderstrom, a Coyotes first-round selection (No. 11) in the 2019 draft, finished tied for first on Team Sweden in assists and points (5) in five tournament games. Sweden was eliminated in the quarter-finals.
Soderstrom was named to Sweden's "Top Three Players" of the tournament, as selected by coaches. As an alternate captain, Soderstrom led Team Sweden in shifts (164) and minutes played (117:13). Soderstrom is expected to join the Coyotes for training camp January 10.
Photos Credit [All]: International Ice Hockey Federation