As the sun rises in the United States on Saturday morning, some of their up-and-coming hockey stars of tomorrow will be hitting the ice in their quest to dethrone Sweden as gold metalist at the World Junior Championship.
Team U.S.A. comes in having knocked off Canada in a big way, winning by a 5-1 margain in the semi-finals. Combined with that effort against our neighbors to the north, the U.S. has defeated its last three opponents by a combined margain of 21-4. That’s a simply absurd number.
Sweden comes in having won the whole tournament last season, and are aiming to become the first repeat champions since Canada won five straight titles. It took a shootout against Russia in order for them to clinch the berth in the championship game.
If the U.S. hopes to grab their second WJC title in the past four years, then they’ll be relying up on some pretty big names to do it. Seth Jones is among the biggest, and he’s part of a blue line that also features Jacob Trouba and Jake McCabe. The three have been integral parts of what the American side has accomplished to this point at WJC.
The trio has combined for 27 points in the tournament, including seven points from Seth Jones, who has the makings of a future superstar.
Not to be overlooked is a talented group of offensive players for Team U.S.A., none that have stepped up their game recently more than Johnny Gaudreau. The Boston College standout has been absolutely fantastic, with seven goals in the past three games.
The Swedish side is led by first round pick Filip Forsberg, who has eight points in the tournament heading into the championship tilt. The Swedes have had no shortage of injury issues, both before and during the tournament, but have still fought their way to the final game against the United States. They haven’t seen the same type of dominating stretch as the U.S., but coming off of a title last season, they know what they need to do to win.
However, the Team U.S.A. is on fire right now. With their extremely talented group of blue liners and streaking talent up front, it’s tough to bet against them right now, no matter who the opponent is. If their semi-final performance against Canada was any indication, it could be a long game for Team Sweden.