To the victors go the spoils. In the case of Team USA captain Jake McCabe and his teammates, that meant a steak dinner at an upscale restaurant in Ufa, Russia today. But it’s back to business on Saturday as the United States will take on Sweden in the gold medal game of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship (8 a.m. ET, NHL Network/NHL.com; NHL Network Radio). The Americans will be looking to take home gold for the first time since defeating Canada in 2010.
McCabe was a guest on SiriusXM’s NHL Network Radio “Hockey This Morning” show today, and he talked about what the Americans will have to do to get past the undefeated Swedes on Saturday morning.
“When you look at teams like Sweden and Russia, they have such a high skilled group of forwards that can do so many great things with the puck. You really have to take their time and space away. They refuse to dump the puck in, especially Sweden,” explained McCabe. “They love regrouping in the neutral zone and constantly bring it back and try to gain speed into our zone. You’ve gotta have good gaps, and you’ve gotta have a good forecheck, otherwise they’ll make you pay with their speed. A lot of our guys aren’t used to the Olympic size-ice but we’ve adjusted just fine.”
The Americans thoroughly dominated Canada in their 5-1 semifinal win on Thursday, including a rare two-goal performance from McCabe. But the University of Wisconsin defenseman was quick to dismiss any thoughts that his United States squad would simply be content in making it to the gold medal game after knocking off the Canadians.
“The guys here know that our ultimate goal is to reach that gold medal. With the 23 guys we have here, there’s no question in anyone’s mind what our goal is. Obviously it was a great game against Canada and they boys played unbelievable. We came out with a lot of firepower and put them on their heels. To get over that, such an emotional win, we have to take the positives of that game and get even better.
“You’ve gotta continue to improve in these tournaments. We know what we can do when we come out flying; that’s going to be our key coming into tomorrow. Again we need to come out with a hot start and put them on their heels. We need to get up early on these teams, and continue to pound them down low and work their defensemen.”
Finland claimed first-place in the relegation round today with an 11-4 blowout of Slovakia. The disappointing Finns end the event in seventh place overall, and have not taken home a World Junior medal since claiming bronze in 2006. Buffalo’s 2011 first-round pick Joel Armia led the way for Finland with three goals and one assist, and he has now taken over the tournament scoring lead with 12 points (6+6) in six games. Armia fired his three goals on just four shots today, and his six goals are currently second only to Johnny Gaudreau’s seven in tournament scoring.
GAME SUMMARY/INDIVIDUAL STATS
Bronze Medal Game - Russia vs. Canada (Sat., 4 a.m. ET, NHL Network)
Gold Medal Game - USA vs. Sweden (Sat., 8 a.m. ET, NHL Network & NHL.com)