The United States upset heavily favored and undefeated Canada 2-0 in Edmonton, Alberta, on Tuesday to win the gold medal in the first world junior ice hockey championship played in a bubble.
In a defensive special, Boston College goaltender and Florida Panthers prospect Spencer Knight stopped all 34 shots he faced to secure Team USA's first gold since 2017.
Knight recorded his third shutout of the event, the most for an American goaltender in the tournament. Forward and Anaheim Ducks draft pick Trevor Zegras led the tournament in scoring with 18 points and was named most valuable player of the tournament. The 18 points were the second most by an American player in tournament history. Zegras also tied the record for most points by an American in his world junior career with 27 over the past two tournaments.
The U.S. took the lead in the first period off a redirection at the front of the net from Los Angeles Kings prospect Alex Turcotte. That goal was the first 5-on-5 goal Canada had allowed in the World Junior Championship and the first time it had trailed at any point in the tournament.
"That was by far the biggest goal I've ever scored in my life," said Turcotte, who was the No. 5 overall draft choice of Los Angeles in 2019 and was part of last year's U.S. squad that was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
The U.S. overwhelmed Canada for stretches of the first period and held a 13-9 shots-on-goal advantage in addition to the 1-0 lead.
Zegras extended the Americans' lead 32 seconds into the second period when he collected the puck and slipped it past Canadian goalie Devon Levi, who was leaning the wrong way.
That goal gave Zegras a tie with former NHL player Jordan Schroeder for USA Hockey's all-time scoring lead at the World Junior Championship with his 27th point collected over the past two tournaments. He ranks fifth among players who have appeared in multiple World Junior Championships with 2.25 points per game, a list that is led by Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg.
Zegras also picked up second place on the Americans' single-tournament scoring list, compiling 18 points to lead all players in the 2021 tournament. He moved past Jeremy Roenick and fell one shy of Doug Weight's record of 19, set in 1991. He was the only U.S. player to be named to the tournament all-star team, joining Canada's Levi, Dylan Cozens and Bowen Byram, Finland's Ville Heinola and Germany's Tim Stuetzle.
Canada had outscored opponents 41-4 before Tuesday night's final in its bid to repeat as world junior champion.
"This is the first team that really pushed back in the first period. We were not used to it and it took a little bit of time to get back at it. After we adjusted, we were really good, but we didn't score," Canada coach Andre Tourigny said.
The U.S. found itself defending for much of the second half of the game. Canada outshot Team USA 25-8 over the final two periods, including a 15-1 shots-on-goal advantage in the final frame.
"We had our looks, but Knight played great. We didn't get the bounces," said Cozens, who led Canada and finished second among all players with 16 points in the tournament.
Knight, who was selected 13th overall by the Panthers in the 2019 NHL draft, made several big saves in his third and final trip to the World Junior Championship. After collecting shutouts in games against the Czech Republic and Sweden in the preliminary round, he became the only U.S. goalie to record three shutouts in a single tournament and the only American to collect three shutouts in his world junior career. He was named U.S. player of the game.
In addition to records set by U.S. players, Team USA video coach Theresa Feaster became the first woman to serve as an assistant coach for a gold medal-winning team at the tournament. Feaster has been on head coach Nate Leaman's staff at Providence College for the past seven seasons, including the past four as coordinator of men's hockey operations, breaking down video and statistics for the coaching staff.
"I told the guys after the game, I was going to be proud whether we won or lost this game," said Leaman, who won the NCAA men's hockey championship with Providence in 2015. "This was a group that cared about each other. They had good character. The team came together and they cared more about a team than anything individually."
The win gave USA Hockey its fourth consecutive victory over Canada in a World Junior Championship final, having earned wins in 2004, 2010, 2017 and 2021. USA is 4-1 in gold-medal games against Canada, which owns 18 golds in the tournament's history.