Well....shit. What the heck happened there, boys?
Team USA was dummying their way through group play of this tournament. They torched Germany, Austria and Switzerland. They hung on to win a tight one against the Swedes. Everything was going great. It looked like the boys were ready to defend the title and win back-to-back golds for the first time at the World Juniors. Everything was going perfectly...and that's the issue.
Things were too perfect. The boys got too full of themselves. Probably already thinking about that gold medal matchup against Canada 4 days in advance. The only issue is they still had the Czechs up on the schedule. Sure, they are the same Czechs who lost in a shootout to Finland, got spanked 5-1 by Canada, and then followed that up by losing to Latvia. LATVIA! Latvia beat the Czechs at this tournament, and USA thought they'd just roll out of bed yesterday to put them out of their misery. Once they got that 1-0 lead, they figured it was over.
Again, it just looks to me like the boys were already daydreaming about that matchup on Saturday against Canada. They thought they could win on talent alone. But as the late great Herb Brooks once said, "gentlemen, you do not have enough talent to win on talent alone".
And now you'd hope that dropping down into a 3-1 hole would light a little fire under their ass. That there would still be more than enough time left in the game to show some heart and work their way back. This is USA Hockey we're talking about here. Toughness, grit, resiliency, Herb fucking Brooks. Dig deep, fellas. Find it within you to make something happen.
Down 3-1 in the 3rd period and we have guys slew-footing players behind the play, and sending the Czechs to the powerplay after receiving a 5 and a game. Brutal. That's some European shit if I've ever seen any. Not what you'd expect to see out of the boys in Red, White, and Blue. So they didn't deserve to win the game, and when the final buzzer went off their tournament was over.
The same team that lost to Latvia just sent the reigning gold medalists home. Tough pill to swallow. But at least there's some good news to come out of this. And that's the fact that nobody is ever going to remember these summer World Juniors. Aside from the Connor Bedard highlights, this tournament will be forgotten. It's a Mickey Mouse tournament, after all. So many players on their teams' rosters at the original tournament in the winter who decided not to play this time around. No Russia in the tournament at all. No fans in the building because everybody in the country hates Hockey Canada right now. It would have sucked if this was the first time USA won back-to-back gold medals at the World Juniors. So they'll just go home early and try it again in January 2024. Dammit.
Sidenote: Uniforms were supremely spicy this tournament for USA. So at least that's a win.