It certainly wasn't the debut goalie John Gibson of the U.S. National Junior Team would have envisioned.
To his credit, Gibson took sole responsibility for his team's upset defeat at the hands of a more determined Finland squad during a 4-1 setback in Group B of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship on Wednesday before 14,000 at Rexall Place.
In addition to yielding three unanswered goals in the third period when the Finns outshot their opponent, 18-15, Gibson was whistled for an ill-advised interference penalty just 15 seconds after his club was given the man advantage and the game tied, 1-1.
"I haven't talked to [Gibson] yet since [assistant coach] Joe Exter handles the goalies, but I thought he played great through two periods [eight saves on nine shots] and then obviously the turning point occurred when it was 1-1 and we took that penalty," U.S. coach Dean Blais told the media after the game.
Gibson impeded the progress of a Finnish player when he stepped a few inches outside the crease at the 1:09 mark of the third. He thought his skates never left the area, however.
"He said I took my foot out of the crease, but I looked up and my foot was in the crease … I guess it happened," Gibson said. "I think it was a downer for the team. We were on the power play and we had just scored. It took a lot of life out of us and it was my fault. I tried my best, but it just didn't work out tonight."
Gibson was filling in for one of the most decorated goalies in U.S. hockey history in Jack Campbell. In fact, it marked the first time since the 2010 WJC gold medal game that Campbell wasn't named the starter in a World Junior Championship contest. Campbell scored an 11-3 victory against Denmark during Monday's preliminary-round opener on 21 saves.
The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Gibson yielded three goals on 18 shots in the third to take control of the contest.
"No matter how Jack played against Denmark, we were going to put Gibson in [Wednesday] and give him a shot," Blais admitted.
Finland captain Mikael Granlund was asked if he and his teammates were surprised at all to see Gibson manning the cage at the start of the game.
"We didn't talk about it," Granlund said. "We didn't think about that. We focus on our own game and that's why we got the result we did. That's the biggest point … to play like we want to play and then it's not so easy for the other team to play against us."
Gibson was a second-round selection (No. 39) of the Anaheim Ducks in 2011. He is currently in his first season with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. In six games with the Rangers, Gibson is 4-2-0 with a 2.34 GAA and .926 save percentage.
"I thought I could have been better," Gibson said. "I take responsibility for that one. I let some soft ones in there and wasn't on my game tonight."
"There's a lot of pressure on every game [to win] and you want to win every game. Now, we're in a situation where we have to win every game or else we might not have a chance."
Blais remained non-committal to either Gibson or Campbell for the team's next scheduled game against the Czech Republic on Friday at 3:30 p.m. ET (NHLN-US).
"We haven't really decided," Blais said. "We've got two goalies who can compete and Jack is obviously … he has the tradition of being the go-to goalie. But we'll see if that happens or not." Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer