The United States earned a 2-1 victory over host Sweden to claim the bronze medal at the 31st annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Friday. It was the fifth medal for the U.S. in the event.
“What you saw today is the culmination of a team coming together and representing themselves and their country with tremendous heart and pride,” said U.S. head coach Ron Rolston. “I couldn’t be more proud of this group of players and our staff.”
In the gold-medal game, Canada defeated Russia 4-2 — bolstered by another goal from Jonathan Toews — to claim its third straight title.
Team USA and Sweden played for the second time in the tournament. The United States gained a 3-2 overtime win over Sweden in Leksand on Dec. 31 in the final preliminary-round game. Team USA has finished in the top four of the World Junior Championship each of the last five years, the longest such streak in U.S. hockey history.
Team USA scored with :05 left in the opening period to take a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Justin Abdelkader started the play when he stole the puck from a Swedish defender behind the net and fed Erik Johnson in front. Johnson’s shot was saved by Joel Gistedt, but Patrick Kane made another amazing play when he settled down the rebound inches above the goal line and put it high into the corner of the net.
Jim Fraser also had a golden opportunity with just over five minutes to go in the period, but his backhanded shot from in front was stopped. U.S. netminder Jeff Frazee continued his solid play, rejecting all 11 shots from Sweden.
Each team got a goal in the second period. Sweden tied the game at 9:00 when Patrik Zackrisson beat Frazee from the left circle. Then, just three seconds after a U.S. power play expired, Erik Johnson’s shot along the ice from the center point beat Gistedt to the stick side. Taylor Chorney and Jack Skille picked up assists on the play at 12:34.
Johnson made a key defensive play as well with just over two minutes to go when he hustled back and cleared a rebound that sat right in front of the goal with a Swedish forward alongside.
The key moment for Team USA in the third period came with about eight minutes left as the Americans were forced to kill 1:21 of five-on-three power play time. Blocked shots by Fraser and Bill Sweatt that cleared the zone at critical times and solid goaltending by Frazee kept Sweden off the board.
The U.S. had a few good opportunities on a power play with four minutes left, including efforts by Skille on a blast from the slot, Trevor Lewis from in front and a couple of efforts by Jack Johnson , but the game went to the wire. Team USA, however, stood tall and didn’t allow the hosts any good opportunities the rest of the way, including after they pulled Gistedt with :48 left.
Frazee finished with 25 saves, while Gistedt had 20 stops.
NOTES: Erik Johnson was named the best defenseman in the World Junior Championship by the IIHF directorate. He is only the second U.S. blueliner in the history of the event to receive the honor, joining Joe Corvo, who was honored in 1997… The U.S. had two players on the six-member media all-star team, including Erik Johnson on defense and forward Patrick Kane.
At each IIHF World Championship, awards are presented to the three best players of each team. The recipients for Team USA were defensemen Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson as well as forward Patrick Kane… Erik Johnson finished as Team USA’s leading point-getter with 4-6–10 in seven games, including 1-1-2 in the bronze-medal contest. He had at least one point in each of the team’s last six games… Patrick Kane was the leading goal-scorer with five. Kane had 5-4–9 in seven tournament games.
Jeff Frazee played the final five games of the World Junior Championship for Team USA and finished with a 4-1 record, a 1.72 goals against average and a.939 save percentage. He is 11-1 in IIHF championship competition lifetime with a gold (2005 IIHF World Under-18 Championship) and bronze (2007 IIHF World Junior Championship) medal to his credit … Team USA penalty-killers allowed just two goals on 37 chances (.054) in the final five games of the World Junior Championship.