The United States made the most of its opportunities and cruised to a nearly flawless 6-2 victory over Sweden to win its sixth gold medal ever. They won their first title in 2004 and their most recent in 2021, and they've won those six in a 21-year span.
For Sweden, heartbreak on home ice. In this seventh tournament hosting, they are yet to win gold.
The Americans won with penetrating counterattacks and a deadly touch around the Swedish goal. They finished with seven wins in as many matches, and time may show that this is one of the greatest American teams of all time.
“It's amazing! It's the best feeling in the world!” said forward Gaby Perrault, who had a goal and two assists for the winners. “They scored a goal at the end of the second half, but we were still feeling confident. We didn't change our style of play, then we scored early in the third period and kept going. We scored from our chances.”
“It feels great,” added goalie Trey Augustine. “We stuck to our game plan, and things worked our way. I think the turning point was early in the third when we got that goal from Boyum. That settled us in. It was a great game for us. We wanted that. Make them take the perfect shot.” “
Swedish defender Matthias Havilid said: “In the first two periods, we put them where we wanted.” “In the third period, they were one goal up, but we felt good. Then they scored, and things didn't go our way. When we play calmly, we can beat almost any team. But when we scored that double.” “In the third set, they regained the momentum, and it was very difficult after that.”
The game started off cautiously, but Sweden began to assert themselves and got the puck into the USA's end for several stretches, but they fouled out too often and ended up not testing Augustin to any significant degree. The team's best player was Noah Ostlund who had three great chances. But he shot high and wide in the first, didn't get much wood with a backhand between his legs in the second, and Augustin stopped him after a nice move in the third.
At the other end, Quinn Finlay split the defense and went in alone, but when Havillid tried to beat him, Finlay moved wide only to run out of space. The Americans scored the opening goal at 16:56 after great play by defender Will Smith. From the point, he took a slap pass to Perreault goalside, and Perreault redirected the ball through the goalkeeper's outstretched pad, sending the small but vocal group of American fans into a frenzy.
The Swedes got the start they needed in the second half, tying the game at 2:13 in a game we've seen before. Matthias Havilid had a simple shot blocked beautifully by Otto Stenberg. Sweden kept up the pressure and were the better team, but time after time they shot wide with a good scoring chance.
The Americans were very impressive on the counter-attack, clearing the ball as soon as they had the ball. Will Smith created partial separation through pace and hard work, but shot wide. But on another faceoff, Isaac Howard carved up space along the boards when a Swedish defender headed the wrong way. Howard came on his own and slotted the ball between Havillid's pads at 9:24 to restore the Americans' lead.
Worse still for the home team's fans was that the USA doubled their lead five minutes later. Howard came out from behind the goal, faked a pass in front of him, and put the ball on goal instead. The ball flew off the goalkeeper's back and went in, silencing the crowd and giving the visitors a 3-1 lead.
But Sweden got a much-needed goal before the end of the period. On the power play, Jonathan Lekirimaki fired a shot high past Augustine with just 5.2 seconds left, a motivating goal if there ever was one.
But the Americans responded just 1:19 into the third period after Sweden needlessly iced the puck. The U.S. won the ensuing faceoff by getting back to the point, and Zeev Boyum hit a shot that Havilid probably should have stopped. 4-2 United States.
To make matters worse, Ostlund was awarded a double secondary penalty for a high challenge midway through the period, and although the Swedish penalty shootout was flawless, it killed another four minutes on the clock for the United States. Shortly after he came off, Ostlund shot In the post, then he was beaten in his own end by Ryan Leonard, who turned the play around with a brilliant shot at 16:12, more or less sealing the victory.
Rutger McGroarty sealed the win with an empty-net goal at 16:50.
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