Defenseman Connor Murphy had the game of his young life, scoring twice including an overtime strike to give Team USA a come-from-behind sudden death victory over Sweden by a 4-3 score.
The goal had a little controversy in that it was scored as an American power play expired. Swedish captain Oscar Klefbom was called for holding when he took down Rocco Grimaldi as the little dynamo drove to the net for a scoring chance.
Murphy rifled a blast into the far side past netminder Niklas Lundstrom after his initial drive was blocked. When the puck bounced right back onto his stick, he re-cocked and fired, catching Lundstrom on his knees in anticipation of the initial shot. The goaltender may have been screened by the prone defenseman and didn't see the puck come screaming off of Murphy's stick until it was too late to react.
USA never led in the contest, falling behind in the first period on an early goal by Filip Forsberg. '94 defenseman Jacob Trouba tied the game with just eight seconds left in the opening frame with his only goal of the tourney.
Sweden got it going later in the second when Albin Blomkvist took a pass at the point, stepped up into the zone and ripped a hard wrist shot that beat goaltender John Gibson high to the glove side. Moments later, Gustav Björklund took a drop pass on a Sweden rush and fired it home to give his team what looked like an insurmountable 3-1 lead with 20 minutes left.
However, Murphy started the comeback with a score in the first two minutes of the final period to give the Americans hope. Although they had chances, they couldn't solve Lundstrom as time bled off the final clock and it appeared that Sweden would grab its first-ever Under-18 gold medal.
However, with just 1:29 left in the game, Reid Boucher, whose name was synonymous with "clutch" all tournament long, took a J.T. Miller pass, broke into the clear on a 2-on-1, and wired the puck into the net to send the game to overtime.
When Murphy scored, he secured USA Hockey's first-ever three-peat at the IIHF's Under-18 Championship. Coach Ron Rolston also earned his third gold medal.
For Sweden, it was a tough way to lose- getting called in overtime, but they played with fire all game, taking Grimaldi down in several cases, and not getting called for it. While one might argue that the penalties should have been called then and not in OT, the flip side of that argument is that the Swedes knew they were playing a dangerous game. By continuing to test the referees' patience, they finally got burned.
Miller, Gibson and defenseman/team captain Robbie Russo were named Team USA's three best players for the tournament, while Gibson also earned all-tournament honors as top goalie. Ryan Murphy (Canada) and Nikita Kucherov were named top defenseman and forward.
In any case, B2011DW salutes Team USA and all the teams for an excellent tournament. We will have more in-depth player recaps and observations to bring you in the coming days, but for now, the focus will shift back to the CHL playoffs, with all major junior leagues playing their respective semifinal series.