Before the ball hit Times Square in New York, the puck fell between two hockey powerhouses in Alberta that were playing for big stakes. The United States and Sweden went head to toe in the final game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship preliminary round with quarter-finals.
And just before the clock struck midnight on the east coast, Team USA ran away with a 4-0 victory.
The Americans opened the scoring only 1:09 in the game when Drew Helleson shot the puck out of the corner and below the goal line towards the net. A little over two minutes later it was Trevor Zegras with the goal from a strange angle when he shot it from the left half board onto the net and the puck sailed over Hugo Alnefelt's shoulder. Team USA scored two more goals in the second half, one from Ryan Johnson – his first of the tournament – after a beautiful set that pays off a win deep in the Swedish zone, and one from Alex Turcotte – also his first. This ultimate goal drove Alnefelt off the net.
"It went great, but I think we were a little surprised, I think we were all surprised," said head coach Nate Leaman. "I jumped on the first goal and then Trevor just played a great game on that second goal and I think it took us a bit by surprise. I think it shook her a little bit and I thought we were had a good first. But the second I thought we had loosened up a bit. In the third phase we wrapped it up again … So that was a good win for us, it was a win we needed and we found a way to achieve this. "
"I think the first start tonight was huge. I thought it really got our whole group going," noted team captain Cam York. "But at the end of the day we focus on winning a gold medal. Today was a big step in that direction. But we have to make it game after game … (and) the quick start was huge for us and we have to continue here. "
With his goal and his helpers in both midfield games, Zegras is now with the current NHLer James van Riemsdyk (22 points) in third place on the list of career points of the World Juniors in the USA. His three points also give him 13 for the 2021 edition when he snapped the lead from Dylan Cozens of Canada.
"Of course I think I shoot the puck more," said Zegras when asked what is different from last year when he had nine assists. "I think I have a little more confidence in these areas. I play with two great players in Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte. They put me in some really good places and I'm pretty lucky and put them away." ""
At the far end, Spencer Knight continues rolling between the pipes. After giving up four goals in twelve shots against Russia, Knight has now stopped the US on successive shutout victories – the first American goalkeeper to perform this feat. He stopped 27 out of 27 on New Years Eve, including a big pad stop on an all-round try in the second period.
"He's always been very mentally strong," said Zegras. "Whenever he has a tough game he seems to recover and I think if we want to be a really successful team here he has to be really good for us every night and hopefully two failures in a row." builds his confidence and prepares him for the quarter-finals. "
Between Knight and Dustin Wolf, the American netminders did not allow a goal in 206: 35 and thus set a record that was set by the squad with the gold medal in 2015 (205: 45). Including Wolf's expulsion from Austria, this is the first time USA Hockey has lost three World Juniors.
The US was without Patrick Moynihan, who was injured. The prospect of Devils had a late, high (and, as many would say, dirty) hit against Austria (the player was banned for the hit two games) and was tossed around against the Czechs too. After Moynihan was eliminated, the American drew 12 forwards and eight defenders, and Senators' vantage point, Tyler Kleven, came out on top at the far end. Moynihan's status for the tournament is unknown.
The Americans will face Slovakia in the quarter-finals on January 2nd at 10:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network / TSN).
"We know we have to do our best," said Leaman, who was on the coaching staff of USA Hockey, who were annoyed by the Slovaks in 2009. "Now it is important that we do our best, and that was discussed with the boys after the game, that in order to be successful we cannot stray from it at all and that it is now a new tournament."
Sporting News had it all under control as the United States finished 2020 on a high level, taking first place in Group B. The United States has won the group five times and won four medals (bronze in 2011; silver in 1996; gold in 2004 and 2017).
(All times east)
USA vs. Sweden Score, Highlights of 2021 World Juniors
Third period: USA 4, Sweden 0
11:48 pm – – Plenty of chances for the Americans with the final seconds of the power game.
11:45 p.m. – – Sweden receives an offensive zone penalty. With 8:04 in the game, the Americans are in full control.
11:41 pm – Spencer Knight with a pad save.
11:34 pm – – No team has had much fire during this time.
11:26 pm – – Last 20 of the game. Final 34 of 2020. Let's go.
11:09 pm – – According to the NHL Network, the US did not allow a goalie on the net in two hours and two seconds.
Second period: USA 4, Sweden 0
11:07 pm – – Knight makes a good shot to the point shot through traffic.
11:05 pm – – Soderblom rings the doorbell. Sweden are getting closer, but that's the best they'd get in a power game.
11:04 pm – – Kaliyev is called to stumble and gives the Swedes their first power game of the game.
11:01 pm – – Five minutes before the end, the USA shoot 27:22 against Sweden.
10:58 pm – – Spencer Knight doesn't know where the puck is and leans the wrong way on a wrap-around attempt, but throws the pad at the last second to keep Sweden off the board.
10:42 pm – – Goalkeeper change for Sweden. Hugo Alnefelt is out. Jesper Wallstedt is in.
10:41 p.m. – TOR. Arthur Kaliyev feeds Alex Turcotte, who is standing in front of the door and on the other side. Turcotte stuffs the puck in and gets his first part of the tournament. USA leads 4-0.
10:40 p.m. – – On penalties, Victor Soderstrom had stick handling and he had room after pulling Knight out of position, but loses control of the puck when he goes to his forehand and doesn't even get a shot.
10:39 pm – – Arvid Costmar breaks in and is knocked down by Jackson Lacombe – and we get a penalty!
10:36 p.m. – TOR. Two minutes on your period. A pass across the Royal Road after a clean win from Trevor Zegras and Ryan Johnson buries him. USA leads 3-0.
10:34 pm – – In the first minute of the action, Sweden has a chance for Spencer Knight to quit, including one from Lucas Raymond.
10:33 pm – – Period is in progress.
First period: USA 2, Sweden 0
10:14 p.m. – – A good first period for Americans. Spencer Knight stopped nine shots when the Americans put 14 on the net, including the two from bad angles that resulted in goals.
10:10 p.m. – – Two seconds before the end, Alex Turcotte gets an additional love grip on the goalkeeper and the Swedes introduce themselves to him.
10:05 p.m. – – The Americans go to the power game.
9:53 pm – – After saving, Alnefelt is out of position, but Alex Turcotte is unable to put the puck in. Victor Soderstrom with a stick and a beauty.
9:44 p.m. – TOR. Trevor Zegras next throws the shot from the half-wall on the left boards and it finds daylight over Alnefelt's shoulder. USA leads 2-0.
9:43 pm – – Teams exchange scoring opportunities.
9:39 p.m. – TOR. Only 1:09 in the game, Drew Helleson throws the puck from the corner and below the goal line into the net and it somehow goes in. USA leads 1-0.
9:37 pm – – Keep playing and like the referee said, "Let's end 2020 right here."
9:37 pm – – Silky gloves.
8.45 p.m. – – Lines are here.
It looks like the US will face Calle Clang (PIT) in their first WJC action game. Hugo Alnefelt (TBL) does not play a second game in a row. Oskar Olausson (2021) was back in SWE's line-up after sitting outside last night. pic.twitter.com/JHaF0TO7YG
– Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) January 1, 2021
World Juniors 2021: The latest news
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