Amid the pandemic, young men from all over the world gathered to represent their country at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Alberta. They quarantined, sometimes more than once, were tested numerous times and followed protocols to ensure the safety of all competitors and staff. Each team wanted to go there and make a statement, they wanted to win the gold medal.
It was down to the final two teams, Canada and the United States. Canada, the home team, was by far the favourite to win it all. It was their game to lose. Coming into the game, Canada had not allowed a goal against at even strength and had dominated every one of their opponents. This all changed with the United States beating Canada 2-0 to win the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships.
The USA came out, dominating the game. They were physical and controlled the game, leading to sloppy play from Canada. The speed of the game was elevated compared to all of Canada’s previous games. Canadian players kept running into each other and missing passes, clearly lacking communication due to what looked like nerves. They simply could not adjust to the speed of the USA and it really showed. Canada let the USA walk all over them early on and struggled to get back to their usual level of play.
Just over halfway through the first period, the Canadian top line got pinned in their end. The USA’s top players held onto the puck while Canada chased. Canada knew they were in danger but the gassed players couldn’t get a change. Alex Turcotte got himself to the front of the Canadian net and looked to the point where Drew Helleson was ready to shoot. Turcotte got a stick on it and managed to deflect it behind Devon Levi, giving the USA the lead. This was the first time Canada had ever been down in a game during the tournament. The USA continued to dominate the rest of the period.
Canada came out of the intermission, hoping to improve on their first period but the USA struck again. Less than a minute into the period, the puck was headed around the back of the net when it caught the end boards and then the side of the net. Levi, as well as almost every player on the ice, moved in anticipation of the puck coming around. The only player who noticed the bounce was USA’s Trevor Zegras. He grabbed the puck and shoved it in beside Levi before anyone could make an effort to try and stop him. This put Canada down 2-0.
Canada improved throughout the game, getting real scoring opportunities in the second half. Coach Andre Tourigny tried to spark offence by making line changes but it seemed as though nothing was going their way. Canadian forward, Connor McMichael, broke through the defence and managed a breakaway but he had little room to make a play and was unable to capitalize. While he wasn’t truly tested until the third period, USA goaltender, Spencer Knight stopped everything that came at him, leaving Canada stuck without an answer.
As time winded down, the USA played perfect defence and held Canada off. The underdogs of the game stunned Canada and claimed victory. The United States was the better team in this one, knowing how to break Canada and executing it perfectly. On the USA team was coach Theresa Feaster, the first female assistant coach at the men’s World Junior Championship as well as the first female coach to win gold. This is an amazing feat and inspiring to women in hockey everywhere.
While this was a disappointing loss for Canada after such an incredible run, they will still go down in history as one of the best Canadian teams to ever compete at the World Junior Hockey Championships. Dylan Cozens, Bowen Byram and Levi all earned a spot on the Media All-Star Team for their respective positions. Levi also won best goaltender of the tournament from the IIHF.
Mikayla’s Players of the Game
0 G, 0 A, 0 Points, 5 SOG
McMichael was an impactful player for Canada throughout the tournament and while it didn’t translate on the scoreboard, this game was no different. Even when they were struggling to do so, McMichael generated offensive chances for his team. He knows how to put himself in the right places, giving him the best scoring opportunities available. He did this with the late breakaway which unfortunately for his team, didn’t result in a goal. He was drafted by the Washington Capitals 25th overall in 2019 and will be a key player for an NHL franchise one day.
1 G, 1 A, 2 Points, 3 SOG
Zegras was the best player on the ice in every game he played in, including this one. He won the tournament scoring race and his play earned him tournament MVP. He is so dominant in every aspect of the game. His speed with and without the puck gives him an edge on every opponent he faces. He is incredibly smart and anticipates every play, putting him in the best position for a scoring opportunity. Zegras’ should be able to continue this dominance at the next level with the Anaheim Ducks in the coming years.