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By Sean Hartnett
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There’s a new generation of promising American hockey talents who are showing the world that the future of USA hockey is exceedingly bright.
On Saturday morning in Ufa, Russia, the United States won their second World Junior Under-20 Gold Medal in the past four years by defeating the tournament’s defending champions Sweden 3-1.
After demanding evaluation and training camps, preliminary games and a highly-competitive tournament, the United States stood alone with Gold Medals hanging from their necks. A collection of American hockey prodigies born after 1993 proudly stood together and belted out The Star-Spangled Banner while the American flag was raised to the rafters at Ufa Arena.
As per tradition, the American flag was lifted a little higher than second place Sweden and third place Russia. What a proud sight it was for Americans watching across the country.
From coast to coast, American hockey fans woke up in the early hours to catch Team USA capturing the Gold Medal. Team USA head coach Phil Housley spoke on NHL Network after his team claimed gold.
“They played like champions, they impressed our coaching and training staff. I think they inspired a nation today,” Housley said of his team. “I know a lot of people were watching at home, we appreciate their support.”
Gibson Puts In Record-Setting, MVP Performance
Team USA goaltender John Gibson led the way all tournament. His .955 save percentage set the new record for highest save percentage in Team USA World Junior history. Gibson was again a brick wall between the pipes as he made 26 saves against Sweden on Saturday and was named the MVP of the tournament.
After going down 1-0, forward Rocco Grimaldi scored two goals in the second period to give the Americans an advantage they never surrendered. It was particularly sweet for Grimaldi, who previously failed to score during the tournament. Vince Trochek added an empty-net goal to seal USA’s 3-1 triumph.
The 1993-born generation of players that came through the U.S. National Team Development Program never lost in a championship game. They’ve won gold at Under-17, Under-18 and U-20 levels.
Popeye Junior’s Draft Stock Keeps Rising
Defenseman Seth Jones ‘ NHL Draft stock couldn’t be higher after he had a hugely-successful tournament. Jones, the 18-year-old son of former Knick and current Brooklyn Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones excelled on all areas of the ice. He finished with one goal, six assists, seven points and a plus/minus of +8.
J.T. Miller of the New York Rangers’ organization played an influential role in USA’s success at Ufa. Miller finished tied with John Gaudreau and Jacob Trouba for a team-best 9 points at the tournament.
The Americans proved in Russia that they — not the Russian hosts, Canada or Sweden are the nation with the brightest future in hockey.
What do you make of the new generation of American hockey stars? Which player impressed you most at the tournament? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettWFAN.