Team USA is going to the gold-medal game!
|J.T. Miller (No. 10) congratulates John Gibson after their win over Canada. |
To get there, the Americans stunned rival Canada with a resounding 5-1 victory over the tournament favorite in the semifinals of the 2013 World Junior Championship on Thursday in Ufa, Russia. Team USA’s last appearance in the gold-medal game came in 2010, where the Americans got a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Canada.
Team USA will face Team Sweden in the gold medal contest Saturday at 8 a.m. on NHL Network and live streamed on NHL.com.
The Pittsburgh-area players all had a big impact on the outcome of USA's semifinal win, but perhaps no player on the ice had a bigger game than goalie John Gibson. The Whitehall, Pa. native produced an incredible 33-save performance to lead Team USA past Canada and into the gold medal game.
All four local products factored on the scoresheet, including Gibson. J.T. Miller had two assists while Vince Trocheck, Riley Barber and Gibson each chipped in a helper.
"I couldn’t be any more proud of those guys in the locker room," Miller told NHL Network after the game. "We came out and executed absolutely everything we needed to accomplish today. We played a full 60-minute effort and that’s what we need to do to win a gold medal."
Penguins prospect Scott Harrington was named Canada's Best Player in the contest.
Notes from the game…
- Harrington, an alternate captain for Team Canada, will be playing for a bronze medal at this tournament for the second year in a row. Harrington, 19, was part of Team Canada when they placed third in 2012 after defeating Finland, 4-0. Overall, Canada is looking to earn its 15th consecutive medal at the World Junior Championship.
- This win is especially meaningful for Gibson and Miller, as they are two of Team USA’s three returning players from last year’s squad (along with Jacob Trouba) that was sent to the relegation round and placed seventh. Before the tournament began, both Gibson and Miller spoke to pittsburghpenguins.com about the embarrassment of last year’s finish and how they wanted redemption. They’re certainly getting that, and it couldn't have come against a more meaningful opponent.
- Canada earned a bye into the semifinals after finishing a perfect 4-0 in the preliminary round, meaning their last game before today was on Monday. Meanwhile, the Americans had played just the day before, advancing to the semifinals with their 7-0 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic on Wednesday. The debate heading into today’s game was who would have the advantage: Canada with a few days of rest and fresh legs or the U.S. with their momentum from Wednesday’s win? It certainly seemed like the latter, as Team USA came out flying from the opening faceoff. They played with speed, energy and passion, making the Canadians look flat. USA’s forecheck and rush was strong, all five skaters on the ice were involved on both ends of the ice and they had Canada chasing the puck around their own zone. Overall, this was the best the U.S. has played all tournament.
- Gibson produced a clutch performance when his team needed it most. He’s been the anchor of this U.S. team and their talented blue line all tournament, but him coming up big in the most important game of his life says a lot about the type of player he is.
One of the main storylines entering this game was the goaltending duel between Gibson and Canada’s Malcolm Subban. Both netminders had fantastic outings in their first meeting of the tournament on Dec. 30, with Subban backstopping Canada to a 2-1 win. But in the rematch, it was all Gibson. Though the final score may indicate otherwise, the skilled Canadians created several decent scoring chances, especially late in the game – and Gibson was there for the U.S. every time. The only goal against came on a confusing sequence in the third period where the Americans seemed to think the whistle had blown. After a review, the goal stood.
Gibson showcased his athleticism in some highlight-worthy stops, perhaps his best one of the game coming early in the second period with USA holding a 3-0 lead. Forward Ryan Strome went in alone on Gibson. Strome made a couple of moves and tried to slip a shot five-hole, but Gibson did the splits and was somehow able to keep the puck from sliding underneath him.
Watch the save here:
And another one:
Jordan Binnington replaced Subban in goal with 7:14 left in the second period after the U.S. built a 4-0 lead.
- Alternate captain Miller centered Team USA’s top line between John Gaudreau and Jim Vesey, which was the game’s most effective trio. They combined for three goals and seven points. Miller stood out with his hustle and determination, keeping his feet moving, winning battles and creating space for his linemates – especially in front of the net.
- Barber helped Team USA get the first goal. He found himself all alone in front of the net with the puck. He turned and shoveled a backhander at Subban. Subban made the save but the rebound went right to Barber. His second shot hit the side of the net but he grabbed that rebound, too. Though he nearly fell, Barber collected himself and calmly slid a pass to defenseman Jake McCabe on the blue line, who beat Subban with a wrister. Barber has six points (3G-3A) in six games for Team USA.
- Trocheck saw time on special teams and played on the fourth line, which gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead after the first period. Trocheck entered Canada’s zone with Rocco Grimaldi, producing a pretty give-and-go play that resulted in Grimaldi dropping a pass to a trailing McCabe. He buried it for his second goal of the game.