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Fitzgerald, Team USA capture gold at World Juniors

Nylander, Asplund finish 4th with Sweden

by Kris Baker @SabresProspects / SabresProspects.com

Casey Fitzgerald (2016, third round) logged a minus-2 rating in 24:04 of work Thursday as the United States erased a pair of two-goal deficits to defeat Canada 5-4 in a shootout to win the gold medal at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

Just like he was in Wednesday's shootout win over Russia, Troy Terry (ANA) again played hero with the only goal scored in the deciding frames while Tyler Parsons (CGY) stopped all five Canadian shooters.

Fitzgerald, a sophomore defenseman at Boston College, ends his World Junior experience with three assists and six shots on goal in the Americans' seven-game run to gold. 

Canada's stalwart defenseman Thomas Chabot (OTT) scored the game's first goal, following rush up ice and slipping down the left side to bury a pass at 4:58.

The Americans continued to struggle getting the puck out of their zone early, and that inability bit them with another goal against off the stick of a Canadian defenseman with Jeremy Lauzon (BOS) connecting to make it a 2-0 game at 9:02. 

The U.S. got out to a much better start in period two, winning loose puck battles and working as a team in the defensive end, and it all paid off with a high-slot goal from another defenseman as Charlie McAvoy (BOS) wristed one past Carter Hart (PHI) at 3:04 to halve the deficit.

The ripple became a wave over six minutes later as Team USA tied it 2-2 on the power play at 9:30. Adam Fox (CGY) rotated to the center point and let fly a shot that was tipped by Kieffer Bellows (NYI) past Hart.

The U.S. were put on the defensive with a pair of penalties in the final seven minutes of the period, but came away unscathed to set the table for a wild third period.

The penalty bug did not go away, though, with Bellows heading off for tripping in the opening minute of the third. Canada got to work quickly, resulting in a Nicolas Roy (CAR) marker at 1:52 to get the hosts back ahead by a goal.

Fitzgerald, who was bothered by a nagging quadriceps issue leading up to the tournament, saw his footwork challenged at times by Canada's team speed as he was beaten to a few loose pucks that resulted in chances, and in the third period a goal against.

Canada restored the two-goal lead at 4:05 when a puck got past Fitzgerald in the neutral zone and Mathieu Joseph (TBL) jumped past him and broke in for the finish.

The wild third period continued with another goal just 39 seconds later as McAvoy glided down the left side and coolly slid a backhand pass to Bellows, who blew a one-timer past Hart to claw the Americans back within one.

The U.S erased a second two-goal deficit when Adam Fox sent a shot-pass low to Colin White, who redirected the puck past Hart at 7:07.

The teams would exchange chances the rest of the way, including a Canadian power play after Fitzgerald dumped the puck over the glass to get called for delay of game, but no connection was made to send the game to overtime before Terry and Parsons came up huge for the Americans.

The victory over Canada gives the United States its first World Junior gold medal since the 2013 event, when current Sabres defenseman and University of Wisconsin product Jake McCabe served as team captain.  

 

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In bronze medal contest, Alexander Nylander (2016, first round) and Rasmus Asplund (2016, second round) were each kept off the scoresheet as Sweden fell to Russia 2-1 in overtime.

Sweden outshot the Russians 15-3 in the opening frame, but neither side was able to score.

Russia was first to score just 16 seconds into the second period with Kirill Kaprizov (MIN) powering his way to the net for his ninth of the tournament. 

Jonathan Dahlen (OTT) answered back for the Swedes at 10:11, swooping into the slot and swiping a failed Russian clearing attempt right into the back of the net to tie the game.

The third period would come and go without a goal, setting up an overtime session to settle third place.

The extra session last long as Nylander was unable to handle a Rasmus Dahlin (2018) pass back to him inside the Swedish the blueline, allowing Denis Guryanov (DAL) the opportunity to attack and go in for the game-winner just 33 seconds in.

Nylander ends his seven-game run as the tournament's leading scorer with 12 points (5+7) and a spot on the Tournament All-Star Team. 

Asplund was excellent for the Swedes, contributing seven points (1+6) while winning 64 percent of his faceoffs.

 

For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.

 

Buffalo wil host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. For more information including ticket packages that guarantee you a seat for the outdoor game between the U.S. and Canada at New Era Field, visit BuffaloWorldJuniors.com.

 

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