Why Did the U.S. Team Lose the Final Game of the 2019 World Junior Ice Hockey Championship?
USA – January 8, 2019
Vancouver, Canada, January 5, WJC Final
USA – FINLAND 2-3 (0-0, 0-1, 2-2)
0-1 – Ylonen, 0-2 – Latvala, 1-2 – Chmelevski, 2-2 – Norris, 2-3 – Kakko.
The U.S. Junior Hockey team was considered to be really strong this year, even stronger than the traditional favorites, like Canada and Russia. And despite the fact that the U.S. team beat Russia, they eventually lost the final game to Finland on January 5, bringing home the silver medal. Two days after we can reflect and ask some questions.
Why did it happen? What went wrong? Let’s think about it together.
First of all, let’s admit the U.S. Junior Hockey team isn’t weak: The times when Americans were the underdogs of the tournament are long gone, as in the last four championships the U.S. has won a gold, a silver, and two bronze medals. So fans could count on success this year, especially since the U.S. beat the Finnish team with a solid score of 4-1 during the group stage.
America was expected to easily win the final game of the WJC, but it was not to be, primarily because the players remembered the easy win early in the tournament. They failed to motivate themselves (especially after beating Russia in the semi-finals!), which resulted in a humiliating 2-3 loss. It wasn’t humiliating in terms of the score, but sometimes it’s much better to lose 0-10 than with such a narrow margin.
The leader of the American team, forward Ryan Poehling, who is currently playing for St. Cloud State and was drafted 25th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, tried his best to become a new Connor McDavid for his team and he almost succeeded, as he was honored MVP of the tournament, but that was probably for the previous matches, not the final: Poehling managed to gain 8 points in 6 games of the WJC, but he didn’t gain a single point in the final game against Finland.
After scoring the third puck in the game of the group stage (making it 3-0!), he may have thought he could do the same in the final, applying the same little effort, yet, the Finnish defense had a completely different opinion. Poehling failed in the match against Finland, just like the whole team. For example, he lost half of the face-offs, 12 out of 24, which says a lot. Underestimation was the key.
Another promising American prospect, forward Joshua Norris, currently playing with the University of Michigan of the Big Ten Conference, scored in the final game, unlike Poehling, but American fans probably expected more of him, especially, in the final third of the game. One goal in the decisive game certainly wasn’t enough for the player who was considered to be new Jeremy Roenick.
In the end, the Americans were out of luck that evening: They almost scored 28 times, almost the same as the Finnish team (the gold medal winners did it 31 times), but for the most part, their shots were easy for Luukkonen to handle.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t a bad tournament for the American team, and their fans should probably be satisfied with the results. A Silver medal is something great to achieve, even though the gold was lost for some silly reasons.