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Jones: WJC final 'best game I've ever been a part of'

Oilers prospect and U.S. blueliner Caleb Jones talked about winning gold at the 2017 World Junior Championship on Friday

by Paul Gazzola /

Three periods of see-sawing international junior hockey. A scoreless 20 minutes of overtime. A game-deciding shootout.

The result: a 5-4 victory for the Americans.

The 2017 World Junior Championship gold medal game played on Thursday between North American neighbours Canada and the U.S. will easily go down in junior hockey lore as a classic.

Team U.S.A. defenceman and Oilers prospect Caleb Jones spoke Friday on 630 CHED's Oilers Now about the pure elation of winning the thrilling gold medal game at the same tournament his brother Seth Jones - a Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman - won in 2013.

"It was an unbelievable game and probably the best game I've ever been a part of," Jones said. "Both teams just battled it out until the end."

The fourth round (117-overall) selection in the 2015 NHL Draft had a solid performance all tournament, proving he can be relied upon by playing big minutes when the stakes were highest. Jones logged a whopping 36 minutes of ice time in the Championship finale, 10 of them in overtime.

"I don't think I've ever played 36; I've played a lot in Portland a few times when we've gone to overtime but that was definitely one of those games that was a completely different level to what the WHL is," the 19-year-old said. "I think I was definitely running off adrenaline in the last 10 minutes there ... I was going to do anything to help the team win and I had no problem playing all those minutes."

The blueliner saw plenty of ice time throughout the whole event - not just in the final - finishing with two assists, two penalty minutes, eight shots on goal and a plus-two rating in seven games to go along with the new gleaming neck candy.

Although eight goals were scored in the three regulation periods played, none crossed the goal-line in overtime. Jones believes that was a testament to the quality of players out on the ice, particularly the D-men, for both squads.

"I think it just goes to show how good the players are on both teams and how focused we were," said the Texas native. "You just make the simple play; you get the puck out and you let your forwards try to maybe go and get that goal and you just stay back and defend and make sure nothing's going in your net."

Many around the hockey world are lamenting the fact that the great display was decided by a shootout.

"I think there's two sides to that," Jones said. "We won, so it's one of those things that's great, we'll take the shootout win. But I do think in some games like those it's tough to see it end in the shootout especially for the fans ... but I guess the IIHF has their rules and it had to go to a five-man shootout."

The hardware Jones received is a concrete reminder of the incredible tournament he and his American compatriots were able to capture. What's abstract - and more profound - is taking the experience to Portland with the Winterhawks and as a player moving forward.

"It's huge for me," Jones said. "I think going back to Portland, I have all the confidence in the world right now and I think it's only going to help me keep playing better and keep becoming a better player as the year goes on. I think my experience here is going to help me out and help my team out."

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