|Senators prospect Jim O'Brien (right) had his world junior medal hopes end today when the U.S. was shocked by Slovakia 5-3 in a huge upset (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images).
This isn't the way Jim O'Brien
's one and only world junior experience was supposed to end.
The Ottawa Senators prospect and his United States teammates wore a collective look of shock after falling to Slovakia 5-3 on Friday in a quarter-final stunner at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship. The Americans will now play Russia or the Czech Republic for fifth place in the tournament — far below their stated goals coming into this week's event.
“Any way you cut it, it’s hard to lose this,” said O’Brien, the Senators’ top selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. “We really thought we had a good chance to win it but you know what, in (single elimination) tournaments like this, you run into a hot goalie and the other team plays a great game and it could be over.”
That pretty much summed up the U.S. fortunes today. They held a whopping 49-19 edge in shots on goal but couldn’t solve Slovakia netminder Jaroslav Janus, who flat out stole this one from the Americans in a remarkable display of goaltending.
"Any way you cut it, it's hard to lose this. We really thought we had a good chance to win it but you know what, in (single elimination) tournaments like this, you run into a hot goalie and the other team plays a great game and it could be over." - Jim O'Brien
Still, O’Brien heads back to Seattle and the Western Hockey League’s Thunderbirds with positive thoughts about his first world juniors. He turns 20 at the end of this month, making him ineligible for another crack at it next year.
“It was a great honour to be able to play and represent your country,” he said. “It’s disappointing for it to end like this but I still had a blast. It was a heck of a time and I don’t regret anything.”
O’Brien’s goal gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead over Canada in their New Year’s Eve matchup but the home side roared back for a 7-4 triumph in what is widely being hailed as an all-time world junior classic.
Someday soon, O’Brien hopes to be the one hearing the cheers as a regular in the Senators lineup.
“It’s definitely a great rink and they’ve got very passionate fans here,” he said. “It’s fun to play in that atmosphere.”