Team USA have won their third straight World Junior A Challenge gold medal after a 3-2 victory over Denmark in the final game.
The Danes got off to an incredible start to the contest, and it’s no surprise as to who got the ball rolling. After picking up the puck at centre ice, Nikolaj Ehlers skated all the way down and absolutely sniped the puck past Eric Schierhorn for the 1-0 goal just 33 seconds into the game. Assisting on the goal was Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had three points prior to Saturday’s final game.
Bjorkstrand almost scored with 10:45 to go in the first period thanks to hard work from his pal Nkolaj. After the Winnipeg Jets prospect forced a turnover in the American zone, Bjorkstrand stole the puck in front and fired the puck past Schierhorn, but the left post got in the way.
The Americans were close to tying the game up with five minutes off the clock in the second. After grabbing the puck just inside the Danish zone, Seamus Malone ripped the puck off the glove of George Sorenson, who deflected the puck off his own helmet and into the crease. Luckily for the Sorenson, he managed to jump on the loose puck and hold on to the shutout.
Sorenson had to be sharp for the Danes all game. With the Americans putting on most of the pressure, the undrafted goaltender made some big stops that most goalies in the tournament wouldn’t have a chance with. His best save of the game came against Tyler Sheehy, making a huge pad save at the last second to keep the game in Denmark’s favourite.
It took 33 shots, but Brock Boeser was able to end Sorenson’s incredible shutout. After pelting the Danish puckstopper with shots for the majority of the period, Boeser’s great wrist shot beat Sorenson over the blocker to make it 1-1 with eight minutes to go in the second period.
The Danes had a two man advantage early in the third and final period, and they took big advantage of the situation. And what better combination to score than the Ehlers and Bjorkstrand duo? This time, it was Ehlers’ great pass from the left corner that made it out to Bjorkstrand, and the Portland Winterhawks star was able to absolutely rip the puck from the point to make it 2-1 Danes. Ehlers, the biggest star at the tournament, had nine points in just five games, including a hat-trick against Russia earlier in the week.
The game wasn’t over just yet. With 1:43 left in the game, Mason Bergh picked up the loose puck in the slot on the power-play before beating Sorenson for the tying goal. The goal came on USA’s 58th shot against Sorenson, with the Danish goaltender stopping 56 of them.
The game required overtime to decide the champion. It was the first time ever in the history of the tournament that the final game went to the extra frame, but it surely didn’t disappoint. A minute and a half if, USA had the first good scoring chance when Bobby Nardella picked up the puck in front of the net and one-timed it towards Sorenson, who made the stop.
The Americans would, however, get one past Sorenson to end the game. On their 62nd shot of the game, Thomas Novak got his third point of the game after scoring on the power-play to give his team their sixth straight tournament championship.
Denmark will now head to Toronto, Ontario to compete at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships. The team is expected to make cuts shortly before their pre-tournament meeting against Germany on Tuesday. Denmark will begin the World Junior tournament on Friday, December 26th against Russia to begin Group B action.
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