2024 IIHF World Junior Championship

Team USA Won 2024 World Juniors; Here's What To Know

Team USA Won 2024 World Juniors; Here's What To Know

Isaac Howard scored twice and the U.S. scored three goals in the third period to pull away from Sweden, winning the country's sixth gold medal.

Jan 5, 2024 by Chris Peters
Team USA Won 2024 World Juniors; Here's What To Know

GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Team USA silenced a sold-out Scandinavium as they promised they would, earning a 6-2 win over Sweden to claim the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship. Team USA got a pair of goals from Isaac Howard (TBL) in the second period and three insurance markers in the third period, including an empty-net goal from captain Rutger McGroarty (WPG) to secure the country's sixth gold medal.

The Americans will take home the gold medal for the first time since 2021. Canada won consecutive WJC championships in 2022 and 2023.

Over the first two periods, the Americans and host nation Sweden took turns scoring before the Americans put it away in the 3rd period with three consecutive scores.

With a 1-1 tie in the second period, USA winger Isaac Howard, and current Michigan State athlete, netted back-to-back goals only five minutes apart. But Otto Stenberg brought the game within one score to end the 2nd period with a goal for Sweden. Stenberg was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in 2023.

Zeev Buium, Ryan Leonard and Rutger McGroarty secured the win for the Americans in the third period, each netting a goal to make the final score 6-2. 

Team USA and Canada were viewed as favorites in the 2024 World Juniors, but the teams never met during the tournament. Canada, led by prospect Macklin Celebrini, was upset by a strong Czechia team in the quarterfinals, 3-2. 

Sweden was also viewed as a strong contender for the 2024 WJC title. The Swedes beat Czechia in the semifinals to claim their spot in the title game. 

USA ‌defeated Latvia and Finland, in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, to book their ticket to the final game. 

USA went undefeated through the tournament, while Sweden's only loss leading up to the final game was an OT thriller against Finland. They also accumulated the most goals by any team in the tournament, with 45. That's 15 more than Czechia, who landed second with 30 goals. 

Isaac Howard and Jonathan Lekkerimaki led all skaters in goals, with seven apiece. Lekkerimaki ended his WJC campaign with the tournament MVP. American Cutter Gauthier also received an accolade, being named best forward of the tournament. 

For the 2004-born players on Team USA, it was a redemption story as they got their long-awaited gold medal after attempts at multiple tournaments saw them fall just short.

Gabe Perreault (NYR) got Team USA off on the right foot on a delayed penalty against Sweden. After Seamus Casey (NJD) made some moves around a defender and got the puck deeper into the zone, Rutger McGroarty (WPG) retrieved the puck and sent a cross-ice feed to Will Smith (SJS), who slap-passed to Perreault on the back door to make it 1-0.

In the second period, Sweden managed to take advantage of some exhausted USA players at the end of a long shift. After forcing a turnover in the U.S. zone, the puck found its way to Mattias Havelid (SJS) who sent a shot that was redirected by Otto Stenberg (STL) in front, handcuffing Augustine. The crowd erupted as the hosts hit the equalizer.

USA jumped back out in front after a spectacular move by Isaac Howard (TBL) after he snuck behind the defense and tucked the puck between Hugo Havelid's legs. Drew Fortescue (NYR) made the pass that sent Howard in all alone.

Later in the period, Howard scored to make it 3-1 USA as his attempted pass to the front hit Havelid's pad and went into the net. The goal came after a tremendous forechecking display by both Howard and Gavin Brindley (CBJ), and Frank Nazar (CHI) to create the chance.

A late power play allowed Sweden to get themselves back into it as Jonathan Lekkerimaki (VAN) scored another clutch goal with just five seconds remaining in the period. He fired a one-time blast into the upper-right corner, sending the Scandinavium into hysterics once again.

Zeev Buium (2024) created some breathing room after Team USA won a faceoff and Smith found Buium alone at the top. Buium drilled a shot that fit through Havelid to make it 4-2 early in the third period.

Earlier in the day, Czechia defeated Finland in a wild bronze-medal game that saw Czechia score four goals in less than a minute to turn a 5-4 deficit into an 8-4 win. The Czechs won a medal in consecutive years for the first time since winning gold in both 2000 and 2001, after securing silver in 2023 and bronze in 2024.

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