HRADEC KRALOVE, Czech Republic — The U.S. finished in fifth place at the 2002 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship after earning a 3-2 overtime win against Sweden.
Yale’s Chris Higgins scored the game-winning goal just over six minutes into the overtime period when he and Kris Vernarsky went on a two-on-one breakaway. Vernarsky dished the puck to Higgins on the left wing, who put the puck in for the 3-2 win.
The overtime winner came after the U.S. team gave up a two-goal lead late. Ohio State’s R.J. Umberger netted the first U.S. goal at the 15:08 mark of the first period after Ryan Whitney made a backhand, goal-mouth feed to Umberger. Ryan Hollweg made it 2-0 when he and Umberger created a two-on one situation. Umberger passed the puck to Hollweg, who went top shelf.
Sweden staged a comeback in the third period, scoring two power-play goals to send the game into overtime. The game-tying goal was a blast from the point that was tipped in past U.S. goaltender Jason Bacashihua, who finished the game with 28 saves.
“This was a good game with two very talented teams,” U.S. head coach Keith Allain said. “Normally in a game like this, there is a small margin between winning and losing. Today was the smallest of margins, I think, because our team competed hard the entire game.”
Team USA’s final record at the annual championship is 4-1-2, with the team’s only loss coming against gold-medal winner Russia, which soundly defeated the U.S. 6-1 in the quarterfinals. The Americans had finished 2-0-2 in round-robin play.
The fifth-place finish and 10 points matched last year’s results. Higgins, Hollweg and Ben Eaves were named the three top U.S. players at the championship.