Canada has lost four of five gold medal matchups against the USA since the IIHF adopted the medal-round formate.
A strong and stoic Florida Panthers draft pick stood tall in the goaltender's crease.
That would have been the description for this game, regardless of the winner. But in the case of Canadian hockey fans, it's not the Florida Panthers draft pick they were hoping for.
Canada's Devon Levi (seventh round, 2020) and American Spencer Knight (first round, 2019) are both prospects in the Florida Panthers system. One has looked unbeatable from the moment the tournament started. The other is wearing a gold medal around his neck.
Throughout the tournament, fans, media, teammates and opponents have praised the performance of Devon Levi. Praise that was all warranted by his performance from start to finish, even in a loss in the gold medal game. But Spencer Knight was the star of tonight's game, and the difference for the United States to win their fourth golf medal since 2010. Knight didn't just shut the door. He had it chained up, locked, and threw away the key.
The same can be said about the defensive effort from the entire US team. The relentless forecheck from the Canadians that has been discussed from the beginning had no answers. Canada struggled to get the puck to the middle of the offensive zone, and they couldn't generate anything from the perimeter either.
A tip-in from Alex Turcotte midway through the first period, and a goal off a bad bounce from Tournament MVP Trevor Zegras had Canada on their heels, and down 2-0 early in the second period. Midway through the game, after Jakob Pelletier took a careless hooking penalty, Canada began taking bold risks to try to generate offence. A shorthanded chance from Bowen Byram beat Spencer Knight, but not the post. At that moment, Canada's defenders began trying to rush the puck into the zone themselves, trying anything to generate a scoring chance, but with no success.
Head coach André Tourigny said although the team made adjustments, it was too little, too late.
"The second half of the game, we were way more physical, our forecheck was way more efficient. They had no time or space. That is where we were successful, but give credit to the US. They had poise with the puck, and they made the best out of it. The first goal, they had a good tip, and a weird bounce for the second goal. When you play at that level, in the final, with two good countries, it comes down to that. A post and goal or a deflection or rebound. Last year we were on the right side, this year we were on the wrong side."
After six games of cruise control, Canada had no answers for the Americans, who out-skated, and out-defended the Canadians from puck drop to the final buzzer. A perfect shut-down effort from the gold medal-winning team.
Speaking to the media after the game, Dylan Cozens spoke about his team, and the experience in the tournament.
"I'm super proud of this group. We spent 53 days together, living in hotels, battling every day through camp. 19 days of quarantine by ourselves not being able to see each other. We played every game so hard. Obviously it just didn't go in our favour tonight."
Cozens finishes his world junior career with 23 points in 14 games, in a tie for fourth in all time points by Canadians. He is the only Yukoner to ever represent Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Canada Player of the Game: Bowen Byram - 0G 0A 4SOG
United States Player of the Game: Spencer Knight - 0GA 34SV 1.000 SV%
Tournament All-Star Team (Selected by the media)
Forwards: Dylan Cozens (CAN), Trevor Zegras (USA), Tim Stützle (GER)
Defence: Bowen Byram (CAN), Ville Heinola (FIN)
Goalie: Devon Levi (CAN)
MVP: Trevor Zegras (USA)
IIHF Directorate Awards
Best Goalie: Devon Levi (CAN)
Best Defenceman: Topi Niemela (FIN)
Best Forward: Tim Stützle (GER)