Bronze was not the medal with which Team USA expected to walk away in this World Juniors, but they played well against a tough adversary and earned the medal in a fast paced, all-or-nothing game. Sweden, the top team in their division, tarnished Team Canada’s perfect record by beating them in a shootout in a preliminary game. The bronze medal was by no means a given for the USA squad, but this time USA came prepared to fight and to win. Goaltender Jack Campbell once again proved his invaluable worth and made save after save with poise and confidence. (Campbell would go on to be named the tournament’s top goaltender, an award he undoubtedly deserved.) Campbell was not tested much throughout the first period, as the US team dominated play and peppered Swedish goalie Fredrik Petersson Wentzel with thirteen shots on goal.
The Rangers had three prospects playing in this bronze medal game, and all three earned at least a point. Although Sweden struck first on the scoreboard to break a 0-0 tie in the second period, prospect Chris Kreider scored a critical power play goal less than two minutes later to even up the score. Kreider struggled in the beginning of the contest, having frustrated the crowd by dumping the puck into the offensive zone on a potential four-on-two break, but he began to dominate after this goal. He scored the insurance goal in the last two minutes of the game with a wicked wrist shot that sent Wentzel’s water bottle flying, and went on to earn the honor of being named USA’s Player of the Game. Fellow Rangers prospect and USA alternate captain Ryan Bourque picked up an assist on Panthers’ prospect Nick Bjugstad eventual game winning goal, upping his tournament total to three assists. Jesper Fasth brought Sweden within one with a hardworking goal, collecting his own rebound and firing it past a sprawling Jack Campbell. Fasth’s goal was his fourth of the tournament, bringing his point total to six.
Team USA clinched the bronze when Chris Kreider scored in the final minutes of the game off of a beautiful two-on-one rush, putting the final score at 4-2. Even with the inevitable disappointment of not earning the gold medal, this team made history by becoming the first US squad to win back-to-back medals and the first to win a medal on home ice.
Team Canada made history, too, enduring arguably the country’s most heartbreaking meltdown of all time and losing in the gold medal round for the second year in a row. Team Canada got off to a comfortable lead with goals from Ryan Ellis, Carter Ashton, and tournament MVP (and Los Angeles Kings prospect) Brayden Schenn. Team Russia, which had come from behind to win in both the quarterfinals and the finals, appeared to finally run out of gas, as Canada’s relentless forecheck kept the puck in Russia’s zone for most of the game. The overconfident Canadian team was not prepared for the sudden Russian attack that was launched during the final twenty minutes of regulation. Artemi Panarin and Maxim Kitsyn (another Kings’ prospect) led the offense with goals thirteen seconds apart, bringing the game to within one. Kitsyn’s goal slipped through Canadian goalie Mark Visentin and began the breakdown for team Canada. Soon after, Russia captain and St. Louis Blues prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, playing through bruised ribs, tied the game at three. Just when the shocked Canadian players and fans were starting to consider a thrilling overtime victory, Artemi Panarin struck again, scoring the go-ahead goal with less than five minutes remaining, and Nikita Dvurechenski completed a smooth breakaway to seal the deal on the most unbelievable comeback in recent WJC history.
Igor Bobkov, a prospect for the Anaheim Ducks, replaced Dmitri Shikin after Canada’s third goal, and allowed zero goals on the twenty shots he faced. Yevgeni Kuznetsov, one of the Washington Capitals’ most promising Russian prospects since Alexander Ovechkin himself, earned three assists in this game for a total of seven assists and four goals throughout the tournament.