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USA Boys Team Wins Gold in World Junior Hockey Championships

Annabel Curry

Team USA poses after winning the gold medal over Sweden in Gothenburg, Sweden.

On January 5th, the United States beat Sweden 6-2 to take home the gold in the 2024 World Junior Championship. World Juniors is one of the biggest tournaments in hockey and a great way for fans to root for their country, as NHL players are not allowed to play in the Olympics. The U20 tournament is also a way for recently drafted or future draft picks to showcase their talent under the big lights.

Last year, Connor Bedard stole the show as he brought Team Canada to gold, contributing to 65% of all goals during the tournament. Bedard was hyped beyond belief and has been a standout player in the NHL as one of the best rookies and an NHL all-star. This year's prospective first pick is 17-year-old Boston University freshman Macklin Celebrini. Celebrini, who previously played for Shattuck St. Mary’s and the Chicago Steel, currently leads BU in points, having 31 in 18 games. He plays there along with World Juniors teammate and Montreal Canadienne prospect Lane Hutson. While Celebrini led team Canada in points with 8 in 5 games, the focus of the tournament fell to Rutger McGroarty and the USA team after Canada’s disappointing 2-0 loss to Sweden and then 2-3 loss to Chzechia in the quarterfinals of the medal round.

Team USA was a star-stacked team including Ducks prospect Cutter Gaithier, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Gavin Brindley, Captain and Jets prospect McGroarty, 4th overall pick Will Smith, Blues prospect Jimmy Snuggerud, and Hutson from BU. The only undrafted player on this team was Zeev Buium, who is in his first year at the University of Denver. The US got off to a good start, beating Norway 4-1 and Sweden 3-11. They were then shocked in their 3rd game by the Czechs, who the US only managed to beat in a shootout. From there, the US returned to their high-scoring games with a 10-2 win over Slovakia and a 7-2 win over Latvia. Overconfidence seemed to be a killer in the next game, as the US found themselves barely beating Finland in the semi-finals 3-2 to send them to the gold medal game.

USA player Gabe Perreault scored the first goal with 3 minutes left in the first period, which was answered early in the second by Otto Stenberg. USA’s Isaac Howard scored 2 goals in that period, with Jonathan Lekkerimaki lessening the gap to 3-2 very late in the period. The third period was all USA, with Buium and Ryan Leonard scoring to make the score 5-2. Before McGroarty decisively ended the game with an empty netter.

The other notable game was the regulation game between Germany and Norway. Germany started off hot, beating Finland for the first time in history, but quickly fell apart for the rest of the tournament. The tight game went to overtime but ended almost a minute in as the Germans avoided regulation. While Norway is sent down a level, fans can look forward to the inclusion of Kazakhstan in next year's WJC.

The 2024 World Junior Championship differed from past tournaments because the focus was on NHL prospects instead of draft prospects. College hockey has truly changed the game as most prospects are taking a year in the NCAA instead of going straight into the NHL or the minors. However, the U20 tournament is exciting because every year, the roster changes dramatically and one never knows what might happen.


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