Gold Medal Game Decided by Shootout

The better team doesn’t always prevail in a one-game, winner-take-all affair, especially when that game isn’t decided by actually playing hockey. Such was the case for Team Canada, who was better in just about every facet against Team USA, but just as the Russians before them lost at the hands of Troy Terry.

Worst Rule in Hockey

Shootouts can be tolerated in the NHL’s regular season because ties are awful. But even the NHL is attempting to settle games with some form of hockey by implementing the 3-on-3 overtime format. There’s a reason there aren’t any shootouts in the playoffs. In a game where everything is on the line, going to a shootout is easily the worst, most anti-climatic way to decide the outcome. But that’s the rule in international hockey. We all knew it. We just hoped it wouldn’t come to that.

The Canadians surely deserved a better fate, unlike on New Year’s Eve where the Americans were clearly the better squad. Canada forechecked harder, they defended better, they played more physical and they had more possession. The majority of the Amercian’s chances were due to unforced turnovers, and defensive miscues. At the end of the day, though, Tyler Parsons was slightly better, making 46 saves, and saving his team’s bacon.

Not to take away anything from Carter Hart, who made 31 saves on the night, and was a big reason they had the chance to play for gold in the first place. After the game, an inconsolable Hart lamented his team’s bad luck: “Right now, it’s really tough, losing like that. Pretty good effort tonight by everyone. It’s a tough way to lose like that.”

USA Never Quit

The Americans deserve credit. They never gave up. Twice Canada had a two-goal lead, and twice the US found a way to tie it. They also were outstanding on the penalty kill. Canada had six power play opportunities, and only managed to convert on one of them. The Americans also seemed to save their energy better. The Canadian players were clearly exhausted by the end of overtime, and for all we know would have lost anyway had there been a second extra period.

Team USA had a better second period than the first. It would have been easy to fold after going down 2-0, but they were resilient. It should come as no surprise, because the American team was very skilled, and after all, were the only undefeated team in the tournament. They may have had a little too much confidence coming off a rather easy win over Canada on New Year’s Eve, but they had to earn every inch of this one.

The USA has had a lot of success at the Junior level. This is their third gold medal in the last eight years. But when it comes to senior level tournaments, such as the Olympics, World Championship and World Cup, they consistently fall short. Perhaps it’s because you never know what you’re going to get out of teenagers, there are so many unknowns. It’s hard to derive too much from under-20 competition because it doesn’t always translate to the pros, but if we’re watching the future of hockey, it’s in very good hands.

Chabot Named MVP

Russia’s Kirill Kaprizov would have been a very worthy choice, but the best player in this year’s World Junior Championship was Canadian defenceman Thomas Chabot. The tournament was his coming out party because he dominated play. He was poised with the puck, he never panicked, he didn’t make bad decisions, and he pitched in offensively. He was the driver of Team Canada.

The Ottawa Senators’ first-round draft pick stood out in the way he controlled the game. When he was on the ice, you weren’t going to get through to Canada’s net. Also named as the tournament’s top blueliner, Chabot wasn’t about to let his individual achievements take away from the team.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done in this tournament,” Chabot said, “but it’s so hard to lose this game. I put everything I could into representing my country as well as I could and help the team win. I may have got the MVP, but I’m heartbroken. It’s very difficult right now.”

Heartbreaking would be the best way to describe the result of the gold medal game. There probably isn’t any hockey fan, even an American one, who could honestly say they liked such a crucial game finishing with a shootout. Perhaps the IIHF will re-visit the format (though we know how open they are to change). In any case, USA won fair and square. Well, they won the shootout. Nobody won the hockey game.