Tha Sports Junkies 101

USA Hockey should not feel great about World Juniors win

USA Hockey should not feel great about World Juniors win George Makris via Flickr


Last night, the United States defeated Canada 5-4 in a shootout to capture the IIHF U20 World Championship and bring the junior gold back to the nation for the first time since 2013.

But its the way the game ended that should make the Americans weary and maybe temper some of the excitement.

It is consensus among the majority of hockey fans that a shootout should not decide the winner of a hockey game. It feels like all of the hard work and effort put into both sides of the ice is decided in a skills competition. A breakaway is a rare occurrence in a game, so to decide a champion on a competition based on a rarity makes it feel like the 60+ minutes played were a waste.

While complaining in my hockey fantasy chat about a shootout deciding a gold medal game, one of my friends chimed in. “Dude get over it. A shootout is a part of hockey whether you personally like it or not”

And, unfortunately, he is right. The shootout has been a part of hockey. It’s been an integral part of the NHL season since the 2005 lockout. It’s how the NHL makes their money.

But everyone knows that the most important game in a tournament should not be decided in a skills competition, especially at the international level.

That is why USA Hockey and its fans should not feel great about this win, because they did not prove they were the better hockey team.

Throughout this year’s tournament, the case could be made that the U.S. was the best team. They won their first two games by a combined score of 11-3, though it was against much weaker competition. In their first test against Russia, they picked up a 3-2 victory, and then two days later played a solid game against Canada in a 3-1 win.

Things got dicey when the Americans hit the medal round. After almost being upset by the Swiss in the quarterfinals, it took the shootout to top the Russians for the second time this tournament. Those performances did not make the American fans rest easy after Canada cruised to the finals, as they won their knockout stage games 5-3 and 5-2, respectively.

The Americans quickly found themselves down in the final game, as Thomas Chabot and Jeremy Lauzon scored 4:04 apart to give Canada a two goal lead nine minutes in. The Americans battled back and scored two goals in 6:26 in the second period to tie the game halfway in.

The third period was even more wild, Canada came out hot and scored goals via Nicolas Roy at 1:52 and Mathieu Joseph at 4:05. The United States would still not go away, as 39 seconds after Joseph’s goal, Kieffer Bellows pulled his team within one goal. Then, at 7:07, Colin White tied the game one more time, and the 4-4 score would stick until Troy Terry‘s shootout winner gave the U.S. the gold.

USA Hockey and this year’s junior team should be proud of themselves. Not only did they have to fight hard to win their first two elimination games, but they erased two separate two-goal leads and prevailed against their biggest rival.

But in no way should USA Hockey and its fans feel as though they were the better team. They were dominated for most of the game, really only having control in the stretches in which they scored goals. The overtime was pretty even with scoring chances, as a couple of penalties made the Americans play on their heels for chunks of times.

Even though he allowed four goals, U.S. goaltender Tyler Parsons made 46 saves and was a major cog in keeping the Americans in it. He stopped all five shots in the shootout and really gave his team the chance to win.

While performing well all throughout the tournament and eventually capturing the junior gold, this is not a victory USA Hockey should gloat about. And if the result was the opposite, it would be one that Canada should not have been too proud of, either. One thing that makes this a little better for American fans is that this team was able to defeat Canada 3-1 in the group stage, proving they were the better team in that instance.

Last night, it was not decided who truly was the better team. But it will go down in the record books that the Americans were the better team. Hopefully, the IIHF will consider a continuous overtime in the future for the Gold Medal Game.

But, for now, the American fans should celebrate. With the wins over Canada few and far between in the sport of hockey, we will take as many as we can get.