Move over, T.J. Oshie: America has a new shootout hero. Anaheim Ducks pick and University of Denver star Troy Terry scored on all three of his shootout attempts to beat Russia in an instant-classic world junior tilt between the two archrivals. Terry, who came into the tournament as one of America's lesser-known players, was humble about his new-found status and shied away from the comparison to the NHLer and Olympic shootout star.
“I don’t know if you could put me in the same league as him, but it’s definitely an honor," Terry said. "I’m just trying to re-gather my words right now. I’m still shaking.”
Russia had owned Team USA in the medal round and tonight's loss was the first ever to the Yankees.
“The record showed 7-0 for Russia and our game plan was to make it 7-1," said Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Jack Roslovic. "All egos aside. That’s what our team is all about.”
Roslovic was on point. The AHL Manitoba rookie gave the team a huge boost with his speed, causing match-up problems for a top-heavy Russian squad. Kirill Kaprizov, who will most likely win tournament MVP honors, was limited to one first-period goal and after that, Team USA sicced Minnesota Wild first-rounder Luke Kunin on him. Though Kaprizov still got some chances, he was largely held in check the rest of the game.
Elsewhere, the Americans overcame some early nerves to keep the always-dangerous Russians in check. Casey Fitzgerald (BUF) made a number of key, detail-oriented plays in the game, while Caleb Jones (EDM) took some pressure off workhorse blueliner Charlie McAvoy (BOS), who ended up playing 32 minutes by the time overtime was finished.
For Clayton Keller (ARI), who himself looked like a 1980s Red Army star with his dazzling moves and puck protection abilities, it was all a matter of keeping a level head.
“Just stick to what’s been working for us all tournament," he said. "Getting pucks deep, playing our system, staying out of the penalty box. Little things that carry over and the big things come eventually.”
This was not the strongest of Russian entries under coach Valery Bragin's reign – the defense was pretty weak behind Montreal first-rounder Mikhail Sergachev and most of the offense came from either Kaprizov's line or Dallas first-rounder Denis Gurianov – but they still played a smart, opportunistic game and deserved a close result. Not that it was much consolation for them afterwards.
“All our players fought until the end," Gurianov said through a translator. "We were down a goal coming into the third, but managed to come back. With the shootout, it’s like a lottery and the other team was more lucky."
A combination of luck and planning, to be sure. Ilya Samsonov had an up-and-down game, surrendering two soft goals before redeeming himself with some incredible stops late in the contest. But Terry found a Death Star weakness in the Washington Capitals prospect and made it count, scoring five-hole each time, but varying his approach.
“The first time (was planned), yeah," Terry said. "Because he’s such a big goalie we felt the best way to score on him would be five-hole. The second and third time I was really just trying to figure it out as I was going down. We noticed he was coming out really far, so on the second one I tried to skate in really fast and then put on the brakes to back him off. Other than that, I was trying to read it and…I blacked out, I think."
More than a few American fans may know the feeling right now, Troy.