By: Dan Shulman
Another IIHF World Junior Championships is in the books quite possibly as one of the greatest ever. The best young talent from around the globe set upon Toronto and Montreal for two weeks to vie for the top honors in junior hockey.
Before the tournament even started, USA coach Bob Motzko was put under fire after his questionable cutting of Erie Otters forward Alex Debrincat, who starred for Team USA at last year’s WJC. Boston University defenseman Chad Krys was the final cut for Team USA prior to the tournament.
For the first time in history, six players from one university were selected for the United States. BU freshmen Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, Patrick Harper and Jake Oettinger along with sophomores Jordan Greenway and Charlie McAvoy donned the stars-and-stripes uniforms. A seventh, Canadian defenseman Dante Fabbro, added to the collection of Terriers in the tournament.
So it was fitting that the spectacular seven met in the Gold Medal game in Montreal just six nights after playing a New Year’s Eve matinee in Toronto to round out the group stages. In the Tournament Final, a BU Terrier had a hand in each of Team USA’s four goals. The Americans prevailed in a shootout to lift gold for the fourth time in Federation history.
McAvoy was named Player of the Game in the final as voted on by Team Canada. The American assistant captain played over a half-hour of ice-time in the absence of University of Minnesota defenseman Ryan Lindgren, who missed the last two games due to illness.
Clayton Keller finished third in tournament scoring with 11 points (3G, 8A) in seven games. Only Sweden’s Alexander Nylander and Russia’s Kirill Kaprizov had more points. Fellow Terriers Jordan Greenway (3G, 5A) earned Player of the Game honors for his efforts the opener against Latvia.
In the Gold Medal game, Kieffer Bellows, following a tough adjustment to college hockey, put the past behind him to score two meaningful goals for Team USA. Bellows, whose father Brian played professionally in Montreal, made his own history in the same city on Thursday.
The six American Terriers combined for 29 points in the WJC as Team USA scored 27 goals. In a team packed with Hockey East players, the conference proved it was still the nation’s top class. However, it was a star from the University of Denver in the NCHC that will be most remembered in this tournament.
Twice in two nights, Troy Terry scored the shootout game-winner for Team USA to virtually win them the tournament. Terry went four-for-four in shootout attempts, picking out the five-hole every time with his quick release.
Between the pipes, Tyler Parsons was the hero for the United States. The London Knights goaltender played in two group-stage games as well as the three knockout-round contests for the United States. Despite shakiness in the Quarterfinals against Switzerland, Parsons battled to shut down Russia twice in the tournament and Canada in the Gold Medal game. His 17 saves in overtime during the Final will permanently stand in prominence of USA Hockey.
The next step for many of these American junior players will be returning to their college or junior team to finish off the season. Boston University’s seven participants boarded an early morning bus from Montreal Friday back to Beantown in time for tomorrow’s game on the Fenway ice.
Eight Americans, including the Terriers’ Kieffer Bellows, Clayton Keller, Jake Oettinger, and Patrick Harper will all be eligible to return for next year’s WJC. But for now, the quartet of Terrier freshman will be focused on a bigger task – adding a National Championship to their trophy case.