And on the 12th day, the Hockey Gods gifted us with the perfect ending to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship — Canada versus the United States with a gold medal on the line. It did not disappoint.
Entering the game, Canada was earmarked for a win. After all, the team had only allowed four goals through six games and was coming off back-to-back shutouts. But when the final buzzer sounded it was the Americans, instead, with a 2-0 win.
MVP Trevor Zegras played a key role with a goal and an assist on Alex Turcotte’s opener. The Ducks prospect backed up what he said pregame to NHL Network’s Jill Savage.
“I honestly don’t think this goalie’s been tested 5-on-5 yet,” he said regarding Canada’s netminder Devon Levi who had only given up three powe-play goals the entire tournament.
Asked Savage: “What’s going to be the difference? What’s going to give you that slight edge to take this one?”
“I honestly don’t think (Canada’s) been tested with a real team yet and I think we’re kind of going on all cylinders right now,” Zegras responded matter-of-factly. “I think we’re gonna catch them by surprise.”
The Americans did just that.
In the first period, Zegras sent the puck up to Drew Helleson at the point. The defenseman then put it on net and Turcotte deflected it home. The goal marked the first 5-on-5 tally the Canadians allowed in the entire tournament — and the first time they trailed. Then, just 32 seconds into the second period, it was the 2019 Ducks first-rounder getting the goal after the puck hit the outside of the net and Levi was leaning the wrong way.
Zegras’ two points gave him 18 (seven goals, 11 assists) and the tournament’s scoring title; he entered the final game tied with Canada’s Dylan Cozens. The assist also tied him with Jordan Schroeder for most USA career assists in world juniors history (20) and after the goal, tied Schroeder in points (27).
Since losing the lid-lifter to Russia on Christmas Day 5-3, the Americans went on a tear closing out the tournament with six straight wins and allowing just five goals. Spencer Knight, who gave up four goals on 12 shots to Russia never looked back. Tuesday’s 34-save shutout was the third goose-egg he put up in the 2021 edition, setting a USA Hockey record for most shutouts in a world juniors career. The gold-medal game also marked the first shutout by an American team in a medal round.
With the win, the U.S. has now won four of five meetings with Canada in the gold-medal game (Canada got the first one). It’s a disappointing finish for this Canadian crew that was dominating for the first six games. The group had its scoring chances. but either Knight made the stop, the Americans blocked the attempt, the shot sailed wide or, as Bowen Byram did in the middle frame, the puck hit the pipe. Canada was looking for back-to-back titles for the first time since winning five in a row from 2005-09; that run was also the last time any country won two consecutive championships.
Both teams have been through a lot: bubbles and quarantines. Zoom calls, daily COVID-19 testing, and boring meals. Both teams talked about how close their team has become. Both teams had their eyes on the prize.
In the end, it was the U.S. that came out on top to close out things in Edmonton. They’ll head back home golden.
Sporting News had all the action as the United States defeated the Canadians for gold.
(All times Eastern)
Canada vs. USA score, highlights from 2021 World Juniors gold-medal game
Third period: USA 2, Canada 0
11:51 p.m. — USA clears the zone and that’ll do it.
11:50 p.m. — Thirty seconds and the Americans are keeping the puck on the boards behind the net.
11:50 p.m. — One minute to go. Canada is controlling the puck but can’t connect.
11:49 p.m. — Empty net with two minutes to go.
11:48 p.m. — Point shot and Spencer Knight does full splits for the stop. Both saves with empty net.
11:47 p.m. — Wow what a stop by Knight on a point-blank shot from the slot.
11:47 p.m. — Three minutes to go.
11:46 p.m. — Connor McMichael breaks in, makes a quick move and Spencer Knight makes the stop. McMichael slams the stick into the glass.
11:44 p.m. — Five minutes to go. Canada outshooting the Americans 8-1 in the period but trailing by two.
11:42 p.m. — Another scramble at the net with Knight just laying on his back to keep the puck out. Canada coming oh-so-close.
11:40 p.m. — Seven minutes to go. Doesn’t feel like there’s been much offensive zone time for the Americans in this period. Canada is getting some chances but can’t find the back of the net.
11:39 p.m. — Wow. Mad scramble and somehow the puck doesn’t go in for Canada. They don’t seem to have much puck-luck tonight.
11:35 p.m. — Ten minutes to go in regulation. Canada down 2-0 and have five shots in the final frame. USA does have one but they do have the two-goal lead.
11:35 p.m. — Canada trying to get something going but Bobby Brink once again laying the body on the line with some big-time blocks.
11:33 p.m. — Turcotte is back out there.
11:32 p.m. — Dylan Cozens cuts in but shoots it wide.
11:30 p.m. — Alex Turcotte hobbles off after a hit.
11:28 p.m. — Canada getting some offensive zone time but Knight is there and the Americans block a few including a big one by Bobby Brink on a Kaiden Guhle point shot.
11:21 p.m. — Canada and American trade long shots that are easily stopped.
11:19 p.m. — Third period underway. In 2020, Canada won gold after trailing 3-1 in the third. Will they repeat a comeback in 2021?
Second period: USA 2, Canada 0
11:01 p.m. — Period comes to an end. Canada with 19 shots now through two but still scoreless.
10:58 p.m. — Spencer Knight is on point tonight and the Canadians are getting frustrated as Connor Zary slams the stick at the bench.
10:52 p.m. — Canada down the right wing but Spencer Knight again makes the save. Americans are weathering the storm as Canada gains momentum.
10:50 p.m. — Canada trying to build something now at 5-on-5 as they buzz around the net but can’t score.
10:47 p.m. — Bowen Byram, shorthanded, cuts in and rings the backhander off the pipe.
10:46 p.m. — Kaliyev with two straight shots but Levi makes the big-time stops.
10:44 p.m. — USA trying to break in 2-on-1 but Jakob Pelletier hooks the Kaliyev to slow him down and gets called for hooking. First power play for the Americans and they have the best one in the tournament.
10:40 p.m. — Canadians on their heels and have just one shot in the period.
10:31 p.m. — GOAL. Seconds in, Levi loses track of the puck as it hits the back bar when it goes behind the net and pops out to Trevor Zegras who tucks it in. USA leads 2-0.
10:31 p.m. — Second period.
First period: USA 1, Canada 0
10:13 p.m. — The first period comes to an end.
10:12 p.m. — Peyton Krebs with a solid hit in the neutral zone.
10:08 p.m. — Canada is now 0-for-1 on the power play.
10:06 p.m. — Big pad stop by Knight.
10:06 p.m. — Bobby Brink takes an offensive zone penalty. Canada will have a chance to tie but the power play has not been great. Canada has just one power-play goal in the last three games.
10:01 p.m. — Canada’s top line is getting pinned in its own end with the American top line.
9:58 p.m. — The United States’ goal is the first even-strength goal Canada has allowed all tournament long. It also marks the first time the Canadians have trailed in the tournament.
9:57 p.m. — GOAL. Off long, sustained offensive zone pressure it’s Alex Turcott with a great redirect off the point shot from Drew Helleson. USA leads 1-0.
9:53 p.m. — Americans now having some zone pressure. Ends with Cam York high point shot snagged by the glove of Levi.
9:52 p.m. — Canada’s backchecking has been fantastic all tourney and continues tonight;
9:50 p.m. — Good defense by the United States as Dylan Cozens flies down the left wing. Then off a turnover another good defensive play by the Americans in the high slot. Shots right now are 5-2 in favor of Canada.
9:50 p.m. — Pad stop by Spencer Knight.
9:47 p.m. — Much different Canada team right now as they’re not getting much penetration to the middle. USA head coach Nate Leaman loves to keep shots to the perimeter and so far the majority have been outside.
9:42 p.m. — USA with a little pressure but Sanderson with a turnover to end it.
9:41 p.m. — Canada buzzing around the USA net but nothing goes — even when Spencer Knight lost his stick.
9:40 p.m. — About 1:30 in and the teams have traded wide shots.
9:38 p.m. — “Alright boys, this is it. Enjoy.” Game on.
9 p.m. — Trevor Zegras on NHL Network: “I honestly don’t think this goalie’s been tested 5-on-5 yet.” Then added: I honestly don’t think they’ve been tested with a real team yet and I think we’re kind of going on all cylinders right now.”
7:48 p.m. — The captain sends his boys a message.
7:34 p.m. — USA’s K’Andre Miller shouting out his squad.
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