GLENDALE - Down by two goals in the third period, Coyotes prospect Clayton Keller and Team USA kept their collective cool in the title game of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship on Thursday night in Montreal.
The poise served them well.
Trailing 4-2, the Americans scored twice within a span of 2:23 in the third period and eventually won the game, 5-4, in a dramatic shootout.
"There was no panic," Keller told ArizonaCoyotes.com on Friday. "We were just playing hockey and having fun, and we believed in each other and the coaching staff. That's why we came out on top. I don't know, maybe they thought they had it in the bag a little bit there, but we fought back and clawed, and that's how things ended up."
LISTEN TO Q&A WITH KELLER:
Team USA posted a 7-0-0 record to win the World Junior Championship for a fourth time.
"Going into the tournament we were all really happy with the group that we had," Keller said. "We had great leadership … We were definitely a confident group and everyone trusted each other. There was no odd guy out. Everyone was in it together. We were on a mission."
Keller, whom the Coyotes drafted seventh overall in 2016, assisted on Team USA's fourth goal on Thursday night and finished the tournament with a team-high 11 points (three goals, eight assists).
"I thought I had a great tournament, but I couldn't have done anything without my linemates and the coaching staff and all the other guys," Keller said. "Everyone contributed. There's not just one star. I think that's what really helped us and that's why we were successful. We were all in it together."
Keller was one of the Americans who took a shot in the shootout. All but one of them failed to score on Canadian goalie Carter Hart. Only Troy Terry, Keller's roommate, lit the lamp in the shootout for either team. USA goalie Tyler Parsons stopped all five shots he faced, including one from Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome.
"Obviously you want to score that (goal), but it doesn't really matter as long as we got the win there," Keller said. "(Hart) made a good save on me. We knew Troy was going to come up big there and he definitely did that."
Keller said he was thrilled to play in the prestigious tournament, and that he'll never forget the celebrations that took place after the game, in Team USA's dressing room and on the ice immediately after the game.
"That was probably the most special moment that I've ever had," Keller said. "I grew up dreaming about being in that tournament, and playing in it is really special. To win it is even more exciting and incredible."