Team U.S.A was dominant from start to finish as they captured their sixth World U17 Hockey Challenge Gold Medal. The Americans went 7-0 through the tournament, finishing it off with a convincing 11-3 victory over Team Canada Red. The Gold was their first since 2017, when they also beat Team Canada Red in the finals.
James Hagens steals the puck from David Bedkowski and makes Canada Red pay 13:45 into the first, his seventh of the tournament. The United States then added to their lead just 26 seconds, thanks to Lucas Van Vliet’s third of the tournament. Team U.S.A kept the pressure on as Cole Eiserman tied the American goal-scoring record with his tenth of the tournament at 16:00. On the play, Hagens recorded an assist which tied not just the American record but the tournament record with his 18 points. Despite late pressure by Canada Red, Team U.S.A held a 3-0 lead at the first intermission.
A record-setting goal kicked off the second as on Charlie Perdue’s fourth goal of the tournament, Hagens recorded his 19th point of the tournament. He now passes Colin White for the most points in World U17 Hockey Challenge history. Canada finally got on the board 7:14 in the second, thanks to a goal from Porter Martonie’s sixth of the tournament. They kept pressing and got a goal from Nathan Villeneuve at 9:30 of the period on the power play to get the game within two.
The US would restore their three-goal lead 13:29 into the second as Shane Vansaghi scored his fifth of the tournament after beating Canada Red goaltender Gabriel D’Aigle on a breakaway. The Americans kept the pressure on and restored the four-goal lead 15:44 into the second, thanks to Brodie Ziemmer’st third goal of the tournament. The power-play goal was also memorable as Eiserman tied White’s point record that had been broken earlier that period by Hagens. Team USA led 6-2 after two.
Team Canada came out firing in the third as Martone scored his second of the night 11 seconds into the third, but the US answered right back with two straight. First was Brendan McMorrow’s first of the tournament at 1:18, followed by Kristian Epperson’s third of the tournament at 1:32. That would spell the end of D’Aigle’s night as he allowed eight goals on 35 shots.
Canada Red goaltender Chase Wutzke barely had time to take a sip of water before Hagens once again found the scoresheet scoring his second of the game at 2:41. The Americans made it double digits after Eiserman scored 7:31 into the third. The goal that was scored on the power play was his 11th of the tournament, which sets a new US record for the tournament previously held by White. Eiserman would finish off the hat trick at 10:34 and, in the process, tie some guy named Alex Ovechkin for the all-time goal record with his 12th to make the score 11-3. After some back-and-forth play, the horn sounded, and Team U.S.A captured their sixth Gold Medal.
It was clear from start to finish that the Americans were the best team in this tournament. From Hagens and Eiserman’s record-setting performances to 13 different players scoring goals, it is hard to find another team that has had a better tournament in the history of the World U17 Hockey Challenge. For reference, The Americans had a goal differential of 35 throughout the tournament, while Finland, who scored the second most goals, finished with 31 total. It is safe to say they were dominant from start to finish.
Behind Team U.S.A’s bench was Nick Fohr. This tournament is not the only one he has seen record-setting performances, as he was an assistant coach during White’s 2013 run. While there were many memorable moments throughout the tournament, Fohr said his favourite was putting the Gold Medal around the neck of an equipment manager who had been with the National Team for close to two decades yet had never won a Gold Medal. That story shows just how special this win was for Fohr and his staff as he wins in his head coaching debut with the national team.
After spending almost two months together, multiple players used the term family when talking about the team. They fought for each other and now walk away as Gold Medalists. They were the best team at this tournament and one of the best to ever hit the ice in this tournament.