Starring roles in Saskatoon and Boston
After watching Team USA beat a very talented Swedish team, 5-2, at the World Junior Championships on Sunday night in Saskatoon, I guess anything is possible in the young Americans' gold medal showdown against Canada on Tuesday. Throughout the first two periods, despite having a lead for a good portion of the 40 minutes, I kept thinking it was just a matter of time before the Americans would buckle to the Swedes. The team in yellow and blue just looked better.
Then, with the score tied, 2-2, in the third period, when the U.S. couldn't convert during a five-minute power play, I thought they were done, for sure.
But with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation time, John Carlson snuck a point shot past Swedish goalie (and Florida Panthers' prospect) Jacob Markstrom to break the tie. Nearly three minutes later, RPI forward Jerry D'Amigo netted a short-handed goal -- his second tally of the game -- to up the lead to 4-2. On that goal, Wisconsin's Derek Stepan made the play, setting up D'Amigo off a 2-on-1 break. Finally, Michigan native A.J. Jenks completed the scoring with an empty-netter to finish the Swedes.
St. Cloud State goalie Mike Lee made 27 stops to get the win. Lee was strong in back-to-back elimination round wins over the Finns and Swedes.
With the victory, the Americans advanced to their first WJC gold medal game since 2004, when they shocked Canada, 4-3, in Helsinki. Can they do it again? I doubt it. Then again, I didn't think they'd beat the Swedes. Dean Blais' team did have a two-goal lead over Canada on New Year's Eve before falling in a shootout. If this game is as entertaining as that one, it should be something to see. Down here in the States, you can watch the game on the NHL Network (8 p.m. EST).
Now, after spending several days at the Winter Classic, I'll give you my parting thoughts in this week's Monday 10.
To read E.J.'s thoughts on the Winter Classic, including one player who had the biggest day of his career and an essential scheduling note for future Winter Classics, you must be an ESPN Insider.