Team USA beat Team Sweden in overtime to win bronze at the 2023 World Juniors in Halifax. With a final score of 8-7, this game showcased the offensive abilities of Team USA and Team Sweden as they traded leads and matched the record for the most goals scored by both teams in a bronze medal game.
The largest part of the game was undoubtedly the offense displayed by both teams. Team USA saw 11 different players get on the scoresheet through all three periods and overtime. Of the players who made an impact in this game, Winnipeg Jets prospect Chaz Lucius scored the game-winning overtime goal, completing a hat trick for Team USA. His other two goals came in the second period, where nine of the games’ 15 goals were scored.
Team USA took an early lead again, with a goal from Arizona Coyotes prospect Logan Cooley within the first three minutes of the game. The game would remain scoreless until the beginning of the second period when Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Ufko scored to give Team USA a 2-0 lead.
Related: Team USA 2023 WJC Players to Watch
The lead did not last long, as the defense on both sides began to crumble and the score began to rapidly increase. Sweden would score next to cut the lead to one goal, followed by the first goal by Lucius to give Team USA back their two-goal lead. Sweden would then score two more in quick succession, tying the game. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Cutter Gauthier and Lucius would both score to give Team USA the lead again, but Sweden would score twice in the last two minutes of the period to send it tied to the third. Through the second period, Team USA struggled to win faceoffs, only winning 35.3 percent compared to Sweden’s 64.7 percent.
Heading into the third, head coach Rand Pecknold made the decision to pull starting goaltender Trey Augustine, replacing him with Kaidan Mbereko. Augustine, a 17-year-old Michigan State commit, made only 15 saves on 20 shots through the first two periods. Despite being the starting goalie for most of the tournament, he greatly underperformed at the beginning of this game.
Mbereko, currently playing for Colorado College, has not been in net since Team USA lost to Slovakia in the preliminary round. Upon entering the game in the third period, Mbereko made 14 saves on 16 shots on goal.
In the third, Sweden would begin the scoring to take the lead early, making it 6-5. A little over four minutes later, Team USA captain and New Jersey Devils prospect Luke Hughes scored to even it up. Gauthier scored one more on a power play to give Team USA a very short-lived lead, as Sweden scored to tie it again with less than 30 seconds to go in regulation. In overtime, Lucius scored just two minutes in to end the game.
Bringing Home Bronze
Overall, Team USA had a great game marked by a great offense. This was mostly due to being evenly matched, as Team Sweden also has a very talented offensive group and struggled with defense in this game. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the goals went back and forth, and the game even ended with equal shots on goal, sitting at 36 a piece.
For Team USA, this win marks an improvement from the 2022 World Juniors, when they lost in the quarterfinals to Czechia. The win in Halifax means they come home with bronze medals and a third-place trophy. This is the seventh time Team USA has won bronze at the World Juniors. The last time was when they had home ice in Buffalo, New York, in 2018.
Hello! I’m a third-year journalism student at Kennesaw State University. I’ve been a fan of the Buffalo Sabres my whole life, and I am super excited to have the opportunity to cover them for The Hockey Writers. Most of the time you can find me on Twitter @skinnerskating or @buckfelderbrie, where I yell about the Sabres, Bills, and anything else happening in my life.