was hoping his final game as a member of the United States World Junior team would be against Canada, playing for a gold medal. It would have been a storybook ending to a brilliant World Junior career that saw the U.S. captain win a gold medal on Canadian soil two years ago, and a bronze last year in Buffalo.
Instead, Zucker will lead his team in its final game tomorrow against Switzerland, a relegation round game that essentially means nothing since the United States overwhelmed Latvia today, 12-2, and avoided any possibility of not being able to compete for a gold next year.
“It was something we wanted to make sure we got done,” said Zucker. “We wanted to come out and have a strong performance and I think we did that today.”
Zucker, who had a goal and an assist in the Latvia win, will leave Canada without a medal for the first time. Although the Swiss game won’t mean much, it will mean a plenty to him.
“Maybe a little bit, yeah,” said Zucker when asked if it will be emotional during tomorrow’s game. “It’s something that I’ve had a ton of fun playing on and had the honor to be the captain this year. It’s something I’ll definitely miss.”
The mauling of the Latvians had some wondering if the Americans had this offensive outburst in them all along, and it just came out too late. Zucker would agree with that assessment, saying the chances were there all tournament, but the goals weren’t.
“I think the main thing is the forwards just didn’t put the puck in the net when we had chances,” he said. “In every game, we had numerous scoring chances and we just couldn’t put the puck in the net. I think overall that was our main downfall.”
Prior to today’s game, the only American with more than two goals was Zucker’s fellow Wild prospect, Charlie Coyle
. In his second WJC appearance, Coyle opened the tournament with a hat trick against Denmark and added another in a loss to Canada. Like Zucker, Coyle will be sad to see his World Junior career end after tomorrow.
“It could be the last time a lot of us put on the USA jersey,” he pointed out. “Every time you put it on you’ve got to take pride in it. It will be tough, but you just have to take a lot of pride in it.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted this year, obviously, but we had a lot of character on our team. You learn from losing so we can take a lot from that. Overall, it’s a great experience up here and I love playing in the tourney.”
Once the tournament is over, Zucker and Coyle will go their separate ways, and Wild fans will have their eyes on the performances of both.
Zucker will head back to Denver University, while Coyle has decided to move on from Boston University to skate with Saint John of the QMJHL where he’ll join another Wild prospect, Zack Phillips
“I just want to focus 100% on hockey so I decided on that route,” explained Coyle. “I met Zack this summer at Wild camp and got to know him a little bit. I’ll be a little more comfortable going there. It won’t be too bad, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Before he goes, he’s got one more day as a teammate of Zucker, who he praised profusely on Tuesday.
“He does everything,” said Coyle. “He’s a great leader on the ice, off the ice, the whole bit. He’s got a lot of speed. He can score. He can pass. I loved playing with him on a line. He makes it easy for you out there. He’s just a great guy off the ice and he’s a great player too. He’s the whole package.”