Saturday in Ufa, Russia the United States captured its third World Junior Championships gold medal ever, defeating defending champion Sweden 3-1 to win the 2013 WJC tournament. It marked Team USA's third gold in the past ten years at this tournament, and its fifth medal in that ten-year span.
JT Miller, one of only three returnees from last year's U.S. squad which finished a disappointing seventh in the tourney, helped ice the victory Saturday by assisting on Vince Trochek's game-sealing empty-net goal with 17 seconds to play. Miller, who played a dynamic two-way game, took the puck away in his own end and calmly fed a streaking Trochek for the goal which sparked a huge celebration on the ice and on theTeam USA bench.
"After what happened last year, I couldn't be any more proud of these guys," Miller said after the game, while clutching the championship trophy. "They're going to have to rip this thing out of my arms to get it away from me!"
The Rangers' top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft finished the 2013 World Junior Championships with nine points (2-7-9) in seven games, tying John Gaudreau (7-2-9) and Jacob Trouba (4-5-9) for the team lead. That trio also tied for fifth among all tournament scorers.
After a scoreless first period Saturday, Team USA spotted Sweden a 1-0 lead when Filip Sandberg snapped a shot under the crossbar from the slot just 69 seconds into the middle period. It would turn out to be the only goal surrendered by goaltender John Gibson, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after his 26-save performance Saturday.
The United States pulled even at the 7:42 mark of the second period. Rocco Grimaldi netted his first goal of the 2013 World Juniors when he banked a bad-angle shot off Swedish goalie Niklas Lundstrom and into the short side of the cage. Grimaldi then had a Jacob Trouba shot deflect off him in front for his second goal less than three minutes later to give Team USA a 2-1 edge.
A tense and hard-fought third period saw Gibson rise to the occasion with an incredible post-to-post lunging save early on, and a couple of other key saves later in the period before Miller and Trochek teamed up on the empty-netter.
The United States also won the gold medal in this tournament in 2004 and 2010. Future Rangers Derek Stepan, Chris Kreider and Ryan Bourque helped the U.S. win gold on that 2010 squad.
Earlier in the day Russia defeated Canada 6-5 in overtime to capture the bronze medal. It marked the first time in 15 years that Canada---whom the United States defeated 5-1 in the semifinals on Thursday---did not medal in the World Junior Championships.
Did you watch the Gold Medal Game on Saturday? What did you think of Team USA's huge victory? And what do you think this tourney did for JT Miller's development as a key Rangers prospect?