The International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship creates heroes of young men each year.
The Under-20 tournament is part of the fabric of the holiday season, especially in Canada. The tournament starts every year on Boxing Day and Canada always plays a huge rival -- either the United States or Russia -- on New Year's Eve, usually in the final game of the preliminary round. Then, the tournament is decided in the championship round during the first week in January.
Yet, the tournament has grown in the United States exponentially in the past decade, thanks in part to extensive coverage on the NHL Network, as well as the improved quality of the United States team and the higher profile of the young stars which populate the rosters.
The championship game, on Jan. 5, will come on the fifth anniversary of the memorable 2010 World Junior Championship final in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Twenty-five players from that championship game are now NHL fixtures, and all 44 from the USA-Canada game are still playing professional hockey.
As excitement for the 2015 WJC Final hits a fever pitch, we allow some of the prominent members of that game to retell their championship-game story five years later.
The Americans won the 2004 championships in Helsinki, Finland; the first U-20 championship for the United States. Featuring a roster which included Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Suter and Al Montoya, the Americans stunned Canada with three third-period goals in a 4-3 win in the tournament's final game.
Canada took the shame of losing to their southern neighbors personally, claiming the next five U-20 championships -- winning all five head-to-head matchup with the Americans, some in dramatic fashion.
When the 2010 tournament opened in Saskatchewan, the host Canadians were the favorite to six-peat.
|Canada 2010 World Junior Championship roster
|Jake Allen, G
||No. 34, 2008, St. Louis Blues
||St. Louis Blues
|Martin Jones, G
||Los Angeles Kings
|Jared Cowen, D
||No. 9, 2009, Ottawa Senators
|Calvin de Haan, D
||No. 12, 2009, New York Islanders
||New York Islanders
|Ryan Ellis, D
||No. 11, 2009, Nashville Predators
|Travis Hamonic, D
||No. 53, 2008, New York Islanders
||New York Islanders
|Alex Pietrangelo, D
||No. 4, 2008, St. Louis Blues
||St. Louis Blues
|Marco Scandella, D
||No. 55, 2008, Minnesota Wild
|Colten Teubert, D
||No. 13, 2008, Los Angeles Kings
|Luke Adam, C
||No. 44, 2008, Buffalo Sabres
||Springfield Falcons, AHL
|Gabriel Bourque, LW
||No. 132, 2009, Nashville Predators
|Jordan Caron, RW
||No. 25, 2009, Boston Bruins
|Patrice Cormier, C
||No. 54, 2008, New Jersey Devils
|Stefan Della Rovere, LW
||No. 204, 2008, Washington Capitals
||Orlando Solar Bears, ECHL
|Jordan Eberle, RW
||No. 22, 2008, Edmonton Oilers
|Taylor Hall, LW
||No. 1, 2010, Edmonton Oilers
|Adam Henrique, C
||No. 82, 2008, New Jersey Devils
||New Jersey Devils
|Nazem Kadri, C
||No. 7, 2009, Toronto Maple Leafs
||Toronto Maple Leafs
|Brandon Kozun, RW
||No. 179, 2009, Los Angeles Kings
||Toronto Maple Leafs
|Brandon McMillan, LW
||No. 85, 2008, Anaheim Ducks
|Greg Nemisz, RW
||No. 25, 2008, Calgary Flames
||Charlotte Checkers, AHL
|Brayden Schenn, C
||No. 5, 2009, Los Angeles Kings
|Willie Desjardins, coach
Calvin de Haan, Canada defenseman: "You know, being a Canadian team, there's always pressure. It's arguably bigger even than the Stanley Cup in Canada, everyone watches it, you know, growing up and watching that first game is always a big deal.
Luke Adam, Canada forward: "I think so, there was some pressure. At the time, if I remember correctly, Canada had won five straight gold medals. If we had to win, we would've gotten the record. We were on our home soil, and you know how prestigious the tournament. It added motivation."
While the Canadians felt the heat at home, the Americans didn't even know what to expect from their club, particularly after dropping a preliminary-round game to Slovakia.
|USA 2010 World Junior Championship roster
|Jack Campbell, G
||No. 11, 2010, Dallas Stars
||Texas Stars, AHL
|Michael Lee, G
||No. 91, 2009, Arizona Coyotes
||Gwinnett Gladiators, ECHL
|John Carlson, D
||No. 27, 2008, Washington Capitals
|Matt Donovan, D
||No. 96, 2008, New York Islanders
||New York Islanders
|Cam Fowler, D
||No. 12, 2010, Anaheim Ducks
|Jake Gardiner, D
||No. 17, 2008, Anaheim Ducks
||Toronto Maple Leafs
|Brian Lashoff, D
||Detroit Red Wings
|John Ramage, D
||No. 103, 2010, Calgary Flames
||Adirondack Flames, AHL
|David Warsofsky, D
||No. 95, 2008, St. Louis Blues
||Providence Bruins, AHL
|Ryan Bourque, C
||No. 80, 2009, New York Rangers
||Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL
|Jerry D'Amigo, RW
||No. 158, 2009, Toronto Maple Leafs
||Rochester Americans, AHL
|AJ Jenks, LW
||No. 100, 2008, Florida Panthers
||Charlotte Checkers, AHL
|Tyler Johnson, C
||Tamap Bay Lightning
|Chris Kreider, LW
||No. 19, 2009, New York Rangers
||New York Rangers
|Danny Kristo, RW
||No. 56, 2008, Montreal Canadiens
||Hartford Wolf Pack, AHL
|Philip McRae, C
||No. 33, 2008, St. Louis Blues
||Chicago Wolves, AHL
|Kyle Palmieri, RW
||No. 26, 2009, Anaheim Ducks
|Jordan Schroeder, C
||No. 22, 2009, Vancouver Canucks
||Iowa Wild, AHL
|Derek Stepan, C
||No. 51, 2008, New York Rangers
||New York Rangers
|Luke Walker, RW
||No. 139, 2010, Colorado Avalanche
|Jason Zucker, LW
||No. 59, 2010, Minnesota Wild
|Dean Blais, coach
||University of Nebraska-Omaha
Jason Zucker, USA forward: "I think we knew that going in that it was going to be that type of tournament. We would out-battle every team and legitimately beat every team. Canada was on a roll. They had a lot of teams beat because they were an intimidating team to play against.
We knew we were going to have to battle and get those wins, and that's what we did from Day 1."
John Carlson, USA defenseman: "I think the definite goal was to win. I think we had a pretty good, really solid roster that definitely gave ourselves a chance to win. I'm pretty sure Canada had won five or six in a row previously. It was a big thing going into Canada when they were on that hot streak.
We lost an exhibition game to Slovakia or someone like that, and you didn't know where we were going to stack up."
Matt Donovan, USA defenseman: "Obviously, for me, I'd never really watched [the tournament] growing up, coming from Oklahoma. I didn't know a lot about it; whether we'd ever won it or if we'd been good the previous years. I just assumed Canada and Russia were always top contenders.
Like John Carlson said, we lost to Slovakia in a preliminary game, and we didn't know whether we were going to win a game or go on and say beat Canada."
After the exhibition loss, the Americans reeled off three straight round-robin wins, including one against Slovakia, by a combined score of 22-2. On the last day of 2009, the Americans even built a 4-2 lead in the late stages of their rivalry game with Canada and appeared poised to pull off the upset.
But, Jordan Eberle and Alex Pietrangelo each scored in the final 10 minutes of the third period, and Canada forced overtime. After a five-minute overtime settled nothing, the clubs went to a tie-breaking shootout. Each of the first five shooters scored, but Canada goalie Jake Allen shut down Jordan Schroeder on the sixth shot, boosting Canada to an exhilarating 5-4 win.
Canada goaltender Jake Allen's save on Jordan Schroeder sealed a 5-4 shootout win against the United States in the preliminary round. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jake Allen, Canada goalie: "You know, it was one of those games where the guys battled hard, and we had a chance to win. It came down to extra time then to a shootout. All the guys capitalized on their chances, and it came down to me.
Schroeder scored on me on a breakaway earlier in the game, and he did the same move and I stopped him. That was definitely a pretty special feeling.
Carlson: "We played Canada, and I think we lost in shootout. It was a big test for us; a benchmark after going through and playing some decent teams and playing well. We knew we were right there.
Fans and onlookers pined for a rematch, and they got one six days later in the gold-medal game. Canada entered looking for their sixth straight title, yet it would have to win without one of its top defensemen. Travis Hamonic suffered a separated shoulder in Canada's semifinal win against Switzerland when he was hit by Jeffrey Fuglister, who was given a game-misconduct penalty on the play.
Adam Henrique, Canada forward: "At the time, he was one of the best players, obviously in the country, as a defenseman. Obviously, he's playing in the NHL now. Losing a guy like that, it hurts.
You know, it's a short tournament, and the hit was kind of a dirty hit, and, unfortunately, it broke his collarbone. I think it did hurt a bit, but those extra guys Canada brings are guys who could be on the team too."
Meanwhile, Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre braced for its first championship-crowning contest. Fans, many clad in red-and-white sweaters and waving maple-leaf adorned flags, filled the building to capacity, harboring dreams of another U-20 title for Canada.
Allen: "It was pretty cool. It was pretty special. The fans were so loud, so passionate, so supportive of us. Walking to the ice, you could feel arena shaking. The fans were going crazy, especially against the rival U.S. Everyone was into it. It was one of the loudest buildings I've been in.
de Haan: "It sends shivers down your spine, for sure. It definitely gives you some butterflies. Not just the people in the building, they're cheering, it's the whole country. It's hard to put that feeling into words unless you've lived it. It's like Jake had said, the whole building was shaking the whole game. It was unbelievable."
Henrique: "The place was crazy. I don't know if I've ever been in a louder building.
There's so much buildup to it every year. It's a tournament most Canadians look forward to. I watched it every year as a kid growing up. It's every kid's dream is to play for your country, and the fans were awesome. The atmosphere in that building was ... It was a big building, basically NHL size. It was a lot of fun."
D'Amigo: "For me, myself, that was one of the biggest crowds I played [in front of]. You couldn't really hear yourself think. I just soaked it in and enjoyed it. We knew we had to battle team and the crowd. Our parents were the only fans rooting for us, and the rest was for Canada. We had to bear down and play as a team on the ice, because that's really all we had."
Zucker: "It was unbelievable. To this day, I haven't heard an arena that was that loud. I know it was a packed house. I know they filled more seats than they were supposed to. It was a smaller rink, only about 15,000 seats. But I think they packed about 16,000 in, and it was loud and the fans were on top of you. It was a fun night, a fun atmosphere. It was a great thing to be a part of."
The Canadians used the energy to their advantage and struck early. On his first shift of the game, Luke Adam broke out of Canada's zone and passed to Jordan Caron on right wing. Adam sped up the ice and got inside an American defender. Caron carried the puck across the blue line, dishing it to a cutting Adam, who backhanded a shot past Lee to give Canada a 1-0 lead at 2:40.
Adam: "Still to this day, if I see that goal, [it] brings back a ton of memories. It was our first shift as a line of the game. It's just a play where you don't forget anything that happens. It started in our own end. Caron made great pass and created a miniature two-on-one. I was lucky enough to slide it five-hole. It went in, and to celebrate and see the reaction of the fans. It was one of the most memorable goals I've ever scored."
Carlson: "It took a lot to regroup after that first goal. You never want to go into an opposing team's arena and get behind the 8-ball. But we had an older team, and we kind of knew it wasn't even close to being over."
The Americans were right. After a few key stops by Lee, the United States settled in and tied the game on Chris Kreider's goal at 13:56. Less than a minute later, Schroeder broke the tie, giving the Americans a 2-1 advantage.
Jordan Schroeder, United States forward: "I remember Ryan Bourque made a nice play, and I just ripped it past the goalie. It was a cool feeling; a moment I'll never forget."
Donovan: "I think we just came together as a team, and we had the right players. We didn't have all the best players, but we had the right players, and I think that made us successful."
The teams entered their dressing rooms for the first intermission with the score tied at 2-2knotted at 2 after Greg Nemisz scored. Still, the Americans opened the second period on a power play after Pietrangelo took a minor penalty for boarding.
Carlson scored on a blast from the point that beat Allen 61 seconds into the frame, giving the Americans the lead again.
Carlson: "I was just excited to be able to chip in. I was more excited to get the lead in a very important game and put the pressure on the other team."
The resilient Canadians responded again, less than three minutes later, when Taylor Hall's innocent-looking pass hit something in front of the net, popped over Lee and trickled across the line. The score was tied 3-3, but USA coach Dean Blais decided to change his goalie, going to Jack Campbell.
Carlson: "They were both great goalies. It just kind of happened like that. It's always funky with goaltending even if you have some really good goalies. Intensity is a bunch of under-20-year-olds with their batteries charged running around, being crazy. It falls back on the goalies too much. They're the ones to blame in the end.
We all knew whatever goalie was playing, and we alternated quite a bit, we were comfortable when we needed them, certain points they both helped us."
Donovan: "It was a wild game. It's a weird thing to see, but we had confidence in both of our goalies, and we knew [Campbell] was going to be excited to get in. Being a young guy, he's a competitor and we had faith in him back there."
Zucker: "That's a really tough thing to do: throwing a cold goalie against a team that was gaining [its] momentum back. That's a tough decision to make at that point. For him to make that call is a testament to how good a coach we had and the faith he had in Campbell and entire team. It was a wake-up call to the entire team. Proved to be the right choice.
Campbell came in, and we had a lot of confidence in Jack. We knew we had to come back. They definitely weren't going to be sitting back."
Campbell shut down the Canadiens for more than a period -- though he got some help from his trusty goal post too. Early in the third period, the line of Stepan, D'Amigo and Danny Kristo set up pair of goals -- with D'Amigo and Stepan each potting one -- and the U.S. had a two-goal lead again.
D'Amigo: "Steps is a great guy. Obviously, you can see his success in the NHL. Me, him and Danny Kristo had different roles. I was the hard worker, Danny shot the puck and Derek made plays. That's what lines are made up of, guys with their own set role. We had a lot of success from that.
Whenever you can silence a crowd like that and be able to celebrate and put your team up; I was ecstatic. As a young hockey player, I probably got a little too excited. For us to go up one goal, and then two goals, we had that confidence and swagger. That probably hurt us, but on the bench we were pumped up and ready to get the win."
Schroeder: "Being up two goals, we weren't confident, we were excited."
Jake Allen's night came to an end after the United States scored two goals 2:10 apart early in the third period. (Photo: Getty Images)
Two goals 2:10 apart also signaled the end of Allen's night as he gave way for Martin Jones in Canada's cage.
Allen: "It‘s definitely not the way I wanted it to go. It happens. The guys battled back, and Marty battled back. I wish I could definitely do it over. I learned a lot from it. It was a tough feeling. But that's the way the game goes."
Adam: "They had a great team. They had a fast team. It was a weird game, all four goalies played. It was pretty wild. We may never see that again."
Carlson: "We definitely felt pretty good when we were up 5-3 there."
As the seconds on the clock dwindled, the Canadians pressed hard and only Campbell's big saves kept them off the board. Still, Canada's pressure proved too strong, and after Kyle Palmieri was sent to the box for charging, Eberle cut the USA lead in half on a power-play goal with 2:49 remaining in regulation.
Zucker: "[Eberle] was on another level that tournament. Him and a couple guys were in the same boat as far as dominant as far as that guys goes. It was tough, a big blow to us.
After the first one, we sat back on our heels a bit. Then he scored pretty [quickly] to tie the game."
Before the Americans could regroup, they were defending again, and Eberle's second goal in 74 seconds, a flipped rebound past the sprawled-out Campbell, tied the game 5-5 with 1:45 to play in the third period.
Carlson: "I think, if I remember correctly, he was the hero the year prior in a lot of situations. It was one of those things that they had the gas pedal on the floor we were trying to lay back too much. You can't give a team like that too much space. They kind of picked us apart.
de Haan: I don't know if the hockey gods give [Eberle] a break here or there, but he's a clutch player. He's good in that crunch time. Every team needs a player you can rely on like that who can put a puck in the net when it's needed. You obviously have a couple of big points and that gave us a boost, that's for sure."
Donovan: "I was on the ice for that last goal, and I think it might have gone off my stick or my skate. Like Calvin said, the hockey gods were looking over him, because that was some goal. I don't know how that went in."
Schroeder: "[Eberle]'s a big-game player; he came up big."
The Americans avoided any more Canadian goals, and the clubs went to overtime tied.
Zucker: "We knew that we needed to get to overtime. They had a ton of momentum, and we needed to battle and get to overtime; to give the crowd a few minutes to settle down and not have the same momentum on their side.
We knew we needed to come out hard in OT and be smart in OT. I do remember it was pretty quiet. Not a ton was said. I think that a lot of it was just trying to get the guys settled down. The older guys did a good job of settling that down and getting us ready to go."
Donovan: "That was very deflating going into intermission, and I think we were all really down sitting there in intermission, thinking, ‘How did we blow this again?' But, I don't know if someone said something, I don't remember in the locker room, but we all kind of agreed this is our game, and no one is going to take it from us again."
Schroeder: "When they tied the game, we had the intermission to calm ourselves. It was time to relax and process. I don't think there was too much said. The leaders just said ‘Relax and do your role.'"
Carlson: "We got an intermission, and I think that really settled everyone down. We knew we were good enough team; that we had proved it in the first 60 minutes. We knew we gave them another chance, and we kind of did a good job of rallying around each other.
Pre-tournament if someone told us we would be in the gold-medal game in that locker room waiting for overtime against Canada, we all would've taken it."
Overtime in the World Junior Championship is played in a four-on-four format. With the skill possessed by each team, a hellacious pace was established from the start. Four minutes into the extra session, Schroeder toe-dragged around a Canadian defender but was shut down by Jones.
D'Amigo: "I think the main thing was we had good clean pair of underwear on (laughs). It was crazy. You're swinging one way. One shot could go either way. We're playing four-on-four, you make one good save then you get another opportunity."
The Canadians took the puck and rushed the other way in a three-on-two. Nazem Kadri carried the puck and dropped a perfect pass for Pietrangelo's one-timer which Campbell confidently kicked out of harm's way.
Schroeder: "I was praying "Don't score, don't score, don't score." There were so many emotions going through me."
USA defenseman John Ramage corralled the puck and flung a pass to Carlson, who led a two-on-one with Stepan.
John Carlson's goal at 4:21 of overtime beat Canada
goaltender Martin Jones and sent the Credit Union Centre
capacity crowd into a frenzy as USA won its first title in
six years. Photo: Getty Images (Click to enlarge)
Carlson: "I remember the rush, Pietrangelo coming down on a three-on-two, the ‘D' was lower than a normal three-forward rush, and he makes a shot and there's a big rebound, and my momentum was carrying me from right to left, and the rebound went out that way.
I was tracking back to the net, and the puck popped out. I just remember looking up, and their 'D' was looking to lay down with the pass with Stepan, I shot it short side.
Every time I see [the replay] again, I see more things."
Carlson's short-side shot at 4:21 of overtime beat Jones, lifting the United States to a dramatic 6-5 win and its first title in six years.
Zucker: "It was a huge roller coaster there. The fans were going nuts. They had that three-on-two there, and Pietrangelo got a great shot, and Campbell made a kick save.
Out of nowhere, we're off on a three-on-one. No way in my mind did I think John Carlson was going to shoot that puck. Not many guys are going to shoot there skating backward, but obviously that paid off great."
Donovan: "I think everything happened so fast. It's such a blur now. I just remember the two-on-one or three-on-one that went down and probably putting my head down thinking, "They're going to win here."
Then we go down, and I remember everyone jumping off the bench and throwing their gear in the air and everyone celebrating. Like I said, it was a blur, but it was a very exciting time."
D'Amigo: "I myself on the bench was just hoping and praying that we were on the right side of the stick. Jack made a big save.
When Pietrangelo is going down the ice, I know I had my eyes close. It was a crazy game a crazy emotional roller coaster. You never want to put your body through that much stress, but at the end of the day, it was worth it."
For Canada, the dream of a sixth straight title died. That fact still haunts the players.
Adam: "If I start talking about it with some of the guys, we can't believe we lost. Over the years, it's become more of a memorable moment. I'm grateful to be a part of it.
No one likes second, when I talk with my buddies, we all still can't believe we lost that game. We were that close. One shot would've been the difference."
Henrique: "You don't win silver, right? So, I still think about it when we play against them. That's the memory that comes back to light.
With the whole run-for-five thing, it could've been the sixth; we were right there, one shot away, so, it sucks. Everybody had all their families there, so you feel it throughout."
de Haan: "We like to think we're the better team. You obviously like to think you deserve to win; but they had a great team, and they played well. I still remember. It was a hard feeling. It was kind of depressing, to be honest.
The whole building … you could hear a pin drop in the building when they scored. All I remember is them celebrating. It was kind of disappointing to be the team that didn't keep the streak of gold medals going.
You know, it still kind of haunts me to this day. It's kind of frustrating. It's hard to put into words. It was depressing. We wanted to win, I wanted to win as much as the next guy. But, silver isn't bad."