Monday, January 4, 2010

USA U20's and U17's Beat Sweden, Gold Medals Next?

Crazy night for USA Hockey. Both the U17 squad and the U20 squad played Sweden in semi-final games at their respective world tournaments.

Starting with the U17 squad, all I can say is wow, what a game. I really wish I could have seen this game live.

Team USA came out with all cylinders firing and built a 4-0 lead mid-way through the second period thanks to a goal and two assists by Rocco Grimaldi (uncommitted), and goals by Reid Boucher (Michigan State commit), Ryan Haggerty (uncommitted), and Tyler Biggs (Miami commit). Wiscosin commit Jake McCabe (pictured) had an assist on Grimaldi's goal in the second period.

I'm not sure what Sweden's coach said after the fourth USA goal to his players, but something clicked. Sweden scored five consecutive goals to make it 5-4 Sweden with 3:15 to play in the contest.

Thanks to a clutch goal by J.T. Miller (uncommitted), Team USA tied the game up with :50 seconds left to play. With the momentum on their side, Reid Boucher (Michigan State commit) was able to bury his second goal of the game and send Team USA to the Gold Medal game Monday night vs Team Ontario at 6PM Central Time.
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The U20's, who obviously also played Sweden, were able to upset the prospect laden team from overseas 5-2.

The United States broke up the goaltender rotation of Mike Lee (St. Cloud State) and Jack Campbell (US NTDP U18) by starting Mike Lee once again after his win in the quarter-final game against Finland. Lee was up to the challenge and stopped 27 of 29 shots in the victory. Expect to see Lee once again in the Gold Medal game.

Jerry D'Amigo (RPI, pictured) was the offensive star for the USA in last nights game. The top line of D'Amigo, Derek Stepan (Wisconsin), and Danny Kristo (North Dakota) once again caused havoc for the opposition. D'Amigo was able to net two goals including the game tying goal, and one to put the game out of reach.

The win was huge for the United States and was actually a first of sorts. Since the World Junior Championships has gone to the current formula of having the top team from each pool get a bye to the semi-finals, the United States has never reached the gold medal game if they were forced to play in the quarter final game.

The game Tuesday night will mark the first time that the United States has played for Gold since their championship upset in 2004 over Canada. The 2004 win was also the only Gold Medal ever won by the United States in the World Junior Championship. Team USA won one silver medal at the tournament. That came in 1997 when a Mike York led USA squad lost to Canada in the title game.

Wisconsin forward Derek Stepan still leads the tournament in scoring with 12 points in 6 games.

The Gold Medal game is Tuesday night and can be seen live on the NHL Network.