Making Peace With Their Demons

For sure it wasn’t 1980 in Lake Placid, but Thursday night was just as special for USA hockey. For the first time, the line separating Canada and the states isn’t as bold as previously presumed. Make no mistake, during the game the Americans weren’t underdogs.

Even the NHL’s social media admin wanted the United States to lose. Yet despite traditional logic, that being Canada surly would have walked away as the World Junior Champion, was defied.

Troy Terry, Colin Greenway, Charlie McAvoy and Colin White may be unfamiliar names now, but that won’t last. As every single one of them was instrumental to the success the United States enjoyed in this international tournament. In fact, I found myself saying “this team is really fun to watch” out loud multiple times. 

In case you are still under ESPN’s spell, it’s not your fault, it’s theirs. A really damn good hockey tournament had been taking place in Montreal and Toronto, showcasing the best talent under the age of 20 from the major hockey countries in the world. Despite the controversial cuts from team USA’s camp prior to the first puck drop, they had demons to make peace with.

Having been defeated by rivals like Canada and Russia in years past, it was almost as if the stars aligned for the Americans in 2017. There may have been new faces but a similar chip could be found on their shoulders.

Having cruised primarily through pool play, the United States earned the right to be the first seed. Their biggest moments came by ousting Canada and Russia. In fact, their biggest hiccup came in the form of the Quarter final match up against Switzerland. A 3-2 nail biting victory propelled the Americans to a rematch with Russia in the Semi Final. However, this time the United States would have to deal with a different level of adversity, coming from behind for the first time in the tournament. A 3-3 tie after regulation meant a 10 minute overtime period, which settled nothing. So it was onto a best of 5 round shootout.

Team USA would find yet another shootout hero against the Russians. Like TJ Oshie in the Winter Olympics, Troy Terry was a perfect 3/3 in the shootout. Notching the decisive goal in the shootouts 7th round. Burying the hatchet on a team that owned a 15-5 record against the Americans prior to the tournament.

The consolation prize for advancing to the gold medal game was a match up against Canada, in Montreal. While the Americans took care of business against Russia, the Canadians did away with Sweden, 5-2.

Beating Canada with a medal of any sort on the line is difficult enough, it’s near impossible when the game is played in Montreal. Widely considered to be hockey’s ultimate cathedral, the Bell Centre in Montreal offers the Canadien’s an unparalleled home ice advantage. The same could be said for team Canada.

Whom quickly leaped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. With a capacity of more than 21,000 all of whom sporting a red Canada jersey, the situation appeared dire for the Americans. Canada had the jump in their step throughout the first period, winning every puck battle and producing excellent scoring opportunities. Had it not been for the brilliance of Tyler Parsons in net for the American’s, they could have found themselves down 3, maybe even 4 goals.

Entering the middle frame, the Americans showed a ton of resiliency. Mixing it up between whistles, winning 50/50 battles, and generating offense. Charlie McAvoy, a Bruins draft prospect, riffled a shot top shelf to cut Canada’s seemingly insurmountable lead to just one goal. Half way through the period the Americans found themselves on the man advantage, their bread and butter of the tournament up to this point. Adam Fox’s wrister bounced off the backside of Kieffer Bellows past Carter Hart to tie the game.

In the third period the Americans were tested the most as their undisciplined play put them a man down numerous times, forcing their penalty kill to go to work. Canada, however made them pay as Nicolas Roy’s picked the top left corner off the draw to make it 3-2 Canada.

Just a few minutes later, Mathieu Joseph was sent in on a partial break away making it 4-2 Canada. With a firm lead, Canada appeared poised to ware down the Americans and weather the storm. But seconds later Charlie McAvoy penetrated the zone again, feeding a wide open Kieffer Bellows who slammed it home to make it a 4-3 game.

Just before the halfway point of the final period Adam Fox went to work. Yet again his point shot was deflected, this time by Ottawa Senators prospect Colin White to tie the game at 4.

“Let’s play overtime, why not?”

A pulse pounding 20 minutes worth of overtime didn’t settle a thing between the two bitter rivals. So it was off to yet another shootout for the Americans.

Unlike in the NHL, the European leagues play a best of 5 shootout to determine a winner, rather than the best of 3 format most fans are familiar with.

After 3 shooters were turned aside for both teams, it was Troy Terry’s turn to settle the score. With ice in his veins and a nation breathing down his neck, he found the back of the net and the Americans never looked back. It would be the only goal scored in the shootout, propelling the red white and blue to their third gold medal at the World Juniors in seven years.

Now more than ever, hockey in America has stars that shine bright. If you missed it this year, you owe it to yourself to tune in come 2018. Take the horse blinders off America, because you’re missing something spectacular. I say this because ESPN’s 10 second coverage of the game didn’t nearly do enough justice to one of the better hockey games of the last decade.

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