Team USA has won the gold in Edmonton after a great final against Canada, who, before the game, were slight favorites. However, on the back of goals by Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras, amazing defensive plays, and a fantastic netminder, the Americans could celebrate a 2-0 victory over their northern neighbors. It’s a win that had the potential to swing Canada’s way had it not been for a turning point that could’ve gone their way late in the game.
The Stick Went in, The Puck Didn’t
With around eight minutes to go and the USA up by two, Canada was starting to show signs of desperation and frustration. It"s a dangerous cocktail for a team chasing since it can lead a team away from the original tactics and agreements among the team. A goal had to come and fast because Spencer Knight was looking unbeatable and it was clear Canada was wondering what it would take to beat him.
Canada was looking for an opening and almost found it when a Dylan Cozens shot was partly blocked by Patrick Moynihan. The rebound bounced via the skate of Drew Helleson and went out right in front of the crease where Alex Newhook was first to win it in the scramble. But the stick of Helleson and a sprawling Knight prevented a first-time shot. Instead, Newhook sent it back to the front of the net and with Knight down and out, Peyton Krebs had a wide-open net to shoot at. With the shot he did find the back of the net, but unfortunately for Canada, it was with the stick of Helleson. The puck somehow stayed out and the United States escaped the situation.
This chance did become the start of a flurry of chances for the Canadians who saw them all turned aside by Knight. Connor McMichael had another turning point chance with three minutes to go when he got a breakaway that Knight saved. However, the start of the chances was Krebs and had that gone in, the game could have changed dramatically.
What Happens Without the Turning Point?
Had Canada made it a one-goal game with eight minutes left, it would have beena major turning point. Eight minutes is more than enough time to score another goal. Knight had been beaten and his unbeatable aura would have taken a hit and Canada would have a feeling that they were able to beat him. This could have meant that he wouldn’t have made some of the wonderful stops that followed the goal. Something like that in a Junior Final isn’t unthinkable at all. Plenty of teams have been looking good and the latest example was last year’s world juniors.
In 2020, Amir Miftakhov and Russia were looking golden with ten minutes left of the game being up 3-1 against Canada. Miftakhov was looking great and had made some glorious stops, but a goal by McMichael changed the game. Suddenly, Canada was back in the game and, two minutes after the goal, the game was tied. Canada ended up winning the gold medal. This exact thing could have repeated itself one year later and been the turning point that Canada needed, but Krebs scored with the wrong item.
Another important part of the story is that the United States had held the lead before in the tournament, and also had issues hanging on to it. Against Slovakia in the quarterfinals, they almost blew a 3-0 lead late in the game and they did allow Finland to tie it up with two goals in the third period. A goal against with eight minutes left could have hit the morale of the American’s hard. Given them a "here we go again" mentality of fear that yet another blown lead is about to happen.
Say Canada managed to score to make it 2-1 and tie it up, anything can happen. The game likely goes to overtime and here the favorites from Canada would have gone into the period with all the momentum in the world, and likely found the winner.
For that reason, the save by Helleson and Knight was the point that set the win in stone and sealed the faith of Canada. Silver for the host and gold for their rivals who were able to celebrate Hockey Junior gold in the Edmonton bubble.
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