For Team USA, defeating their northern neighbor and heated rival Canada on international ice is always something special.
But for U.S. goalie John Gibson, Thursday’s resounding 5-1 win over Canada in the 2013 World Junior Championship semifinals to advance to Saturday’s gold medal game vs. Sweden was especially meaningful.
“It’s always such a good feeling to beat such a big rival, and moving on to the gold medal game made it a little more special,” said Gibson, who grew up in Whitehall, Pa. and developed in the Pittsburgh amateur hockey system.
This win – and the tournament overall – is also about redemption for Gibson, one of just three returning players from last year’s U.S. National Junior Team. At the 2012 World Junior Championship in Alberta, the Americans got sent to the relegation round and finished in seventh place.
Gibson served as Team USA’s backup goaltender and made just one start in that tournament, a 4-1 loss to Finland. This year, he earned the starting job and vowed going into Russia that not only would he do his best for the team and take them as far as possible, he would use his experience from last year to provide leadership for the team.
“Not many people get a second chance and I was honored enough to get one,” Gibson said. “So coming in I wanted to make the most of it. And right now we are heading in the right direction to making that happen.”
Gibson has been absolutely terrific for Team USA in Russia, anchoring a strong American blue line that’s allowed a tournament-low eight goals. Gibson has collected two shutouts in six games, and his sparkling 1.42 goals-against average and .954 save percentage lead all goalies.
Gibson’s proven he can handle the pressure of this prestigious tournament, which was evident in his calm and composed 33-save performance against the Canadians on Thursday. That mindset won’t change heading into Saturday’s game.
“I’m just trying to do my job and play my game,” he said. “And we’re just sticking to our game plan.”