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Rangers prospects lead U.S. gold rush

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
 
Team USA captain Derek Stepan, the Rangers' 2008 second-round draft pick, raises the IIHF Cup in celebration of only the second World Junior Championship gold won by the Americans.
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Period 1 Highlights (Kreider Goal, Bourque Assist)
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Period 2 Highlights
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Period 3 Highlights (Stepan Assist, Stepan Goal)
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OT Highlights (See Stepan on the Winning Play)
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Postgame Highlights, Including Stepan Interview
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Gordie Clark on the Rangers Prospects
Game 1 Recap: Stepan Gets Three Points in Win
Game 2 Recap: Kreider Nets Winner in Shutout
Game 3 Recap: Hat Trick for Kreider in Rout of Latvia
Game 4 Recap: Canada Edges USA in OT Shootout
Quarterfinals: Kreider Scores in 6-2 Win Over Finns
Semifinals: Team USA Topples Sweden, Eyes Gold
Bourque Watch | Kreider Watch | Stepan Watch

Rangers prospects Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque led Team USA to a remarkable 6-5 overtime victory over Canada on Tuesday night in the inal of the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Stepan, the tournament's leading scorer with a remarkable four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in seven games, had a goal and assist in the third period and was part of the 3-on-1 U.S. rush that led to defenseman John Carlson's dramatic winner at 4:31 of overtime.

Prior to Tuesday, no Rangers draft pick had led a World Junior Championship tournament in points since Doug Weight in 1991. Stepan is the first to do it as a member of the gold-medal team. His 14 points ranks fourth all-time on the U.S. single tournament list, while his 10 assists are tied for second all-time (behind Phil Kessel 2006) among U.S. players.

The improbable U.S. championship ended Canada's five-year hold on the tournament title and prevented the Canadians from becoming the first country to win the World Junior crown in six straight years. Instead, Team USA captured only its second gold medal in the 34-year history of the prestigious tournament, which has helped launch the careers of virtually every major NHL star since it began in 1977. The only other U.S. title had come in 2004.

Chris Kreider, the 2009 Rangers first-rounder who is attending Boston College this season, tied for the Team USA lead with six goals in seven games.
Victory did not come easily. Team USA lost a 5-3 lead when Canada's Jordan Eberle forced OT with two goals in the closing minutes of the third period. The U.S. then went into the 20-minute, 4-on-4 overtime having to overcome not only the Canadian team, but also thousands of rabid Canadian fans who were firmly behind the host nation.

Stepan, a 2008 Rangers second-round draft pick currently in his sophomore season at the University of Wisconsin, was named to the Tournament's Media All-Star team for his performance over the seven USA games. He scored at least a point in all seven, but he was hardly the only Blueshirts prospect to have a huge impact on the team's success.

Kreider, a 2009 first-round pick, tied for the U.S. goal-scoring lead with six tallies in seven games, including the first U.S. goal in Tuesday night's opening period. Bourque, who played a mostly defensive role on the team, assisted on a goal that gave the U.S. its first lead of the gold-medal game in the opening 20 minutes.

Because of the way Canada roared back to tie it -- and how Team USA refused to lose in OT -- Tuesday night's game will likely be remembered as one of the great victories in U.S. hockey history.

It was a wild night from start to finish, as Canada wasted little time taking the lead when Luke Adam scored off an assist from Jordan Caron just 2:40 into the opening period.

Team USA needed just over 10 minutes to respond, but it roared back in a big way as Kreider and Bourque both played a part in a pair of even-strength goals scored just 36 seconds apart.

Kreider pulled the Americans into a 1-1 tie at 13:56 of the second, scoring off assists from Kyle Palmieri and A.J. Jenks. The goal was Kreider's sixth in seven games, temporarily giving him sole possession of the team lead with six goals before Jerry D'Amigo eventually netted his sixth to make it a tie for the seven-game tournament. D'Amigo and Kreider were both tied for third overall in goal-scoring among all players at the 2010 World Junior tournament.

Vancouver Canucks first-round pick Jordan Schroeder then made it 2-1 for Team USA with a goal assisted by Bourque and Matt Donovan at the 14:32 mark.

Rangers prospect Ryan Bourque, a 2009 third-round draft pick, celebrates the U.S. World Junior title with his gold medal after the Americans beat Canada.

The Canadians kept the high-scoring first period going with a goal from Greg Nemisz at 16:03 of the first, but Team Canada took the game's first penalty only 32 seconds later, The Canadians killed that off, but they then were hit with a bigger setback when star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo received a penalty and 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind late in the first period.

Team USA cashed in on the Pietrangelo penalty just 1:03 into the second period when Carlson scored on a power-play drive to make it 3-2. Canada came right back just under three minutes later, as 2010 top NHL draft prospect Taylor Hall tied it up at 3-3 off an assist from Adam.

Hall's goal prompted U.S. coach Dean Blais to replace starting goalie Mike Lee with 17-year-old Jack Campbell, who settled into his role immediately after having played in the earlier 5-4 shootout loss to Canada during the round robin portion of the tournament on New Year's Eve. There was no more scoring in the second period, setting the stage for the wild third.

Stepan turned in a heroic third period with an even-strength assist, -- his 10th of the tournament -- as well as a goal to give the Americans a stunning 5-3 lead. Stepan first set up linemate D'Amigo for a 4-3 U.S. advantage at the 4:12 mark. He then delivered his fourth goal and 14th point of the tournament in style, scoring at 6:23 of the third to deliver what seemed like a commanding lead at the time.

Down to the final mintues, the Canadians miraculously found a way to force overtime on back-to-back goals by Jordan Eberle. The first came on a power play from Pietrangelo and Hall at 17:11 of the third. Only 74 seconds later -- with only 1:35 left in the third period -- Eberle scored again on the rebound of a Ryan Ellis shot to send the game to overtime, where Carlson came through in such dramatic fashion.
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