The 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship ended with a bang, as medals were handed out and junior hockey dreams were realized.
Russia pressed Finland early, but couldn’t beat Finnish goalie Kari Piiroinen more than once. Finland held its own before storming back to win the bronze medal with a 4-1 win.
Canada struggled mightily in the gold medal game, allowing its first 5-on-5 goals of the entire tournament. The United States shut them out in dominant fashion to capture their first gold medal since 2017.
Here are the three best performances from the 10th and final day of the 2021 world juniors.
3rd Star: Anton Lundell, Finland
After Russia’s early dominance, Finland was going to need its stars to step up if they were going to come away with the bronze medal.
Finland dug in deep after Russia made it 1-0 in the first period and refused to let Russia run over them. They bounced back in the second period and it was their captain, Anton Lundell, who got the Finns on the board with the tying goal.
Oh Captain, my Captain Anton Lundell evens the score for @leijonat against @russiahockey #WorldJuniors @FlaPanthers pic.twitter.com/hFjdbOfIsi
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 5, 2021
From there, Russia seemed to have no answer for Finland’s pace and attack, and struggled to get anything going offensively. When Mikko Petman scored the go-ahead goal for Finland, it seemed as though Russia wouldn’t be able to come back.
It didn’t help matters when Russian captain Vasily Podkolzin took a four-minute double minor late in the third period with his team still down by only a goal.
Lundell hit the empty net with about two minutes left, scoring his second goal of the game, to give Finland some breathing room.
Finland, who wasn’t expected to be as competitive against Canada, the United States and Russia this year, found a way to win Tuesday — and Lundell was a huge reason for that.
Not only did Finland redeem itself from a disappointing fourth-place finish in 2020, but Lundell was able to play this year after missing last year’s tournament with an injury and led his team to a medal finish.
2nd Star: Trevor Zegras, United States
Prior to the gold medal game, Trevor Zegras made a bold statement: that Canada hadn’t been tested at 5-on-5 yet at this tournament.
He was right.
Canada entered the gold medal game without having allowed a single goal at 5-on-5 in the tournament, so the United States did what no other team could: score against Canada at even-strength.
Zegras backed up his words and capped off one of the most impressive single-tournament performances ever with a goal and an assist to lift the United States to the gold medal.
The Americans smothered Canada on all fronts in this game. They were dominant in the first period and Canada simply did not have an answer for their offense.
Zegras finished the tournament with 18 points, just one shy of Doug Weight’s single-tournament record for Americans, and was named tournament MVP.
1st Star: Spencer Knight, United States
When the United States needed him, Spencer Knight came through big time with the performance of his life.
After his teammates did the work to get on the scoresheet and open a 2-0 lead, all the Florida Panthers’ 2019 first rounder had to do was shut the door the rest of the way.
Although there were several moments where Knight was scrambling around in the crease and needed to be bailed out by the post, he was rock solid when it mattered, and Canada could not solve him to save their lives.
Even as Connor McMichael came charging down the ice on a breakaway with about three minutes left, Knight maintained his composure and made the save.
Knight’s 33-save shutout was also the first by an American in a medal round game at the world juniors. It could not have come at a better time.
Knight, who faced questions about whether he should be the starting goaltender this year after USA lost to Russia, silenced his doubters with one of the best performances of his career in the gold medal game.
It was the fourth consecutive time the United States has beaten Canada in the gold medal game, and it was a well-deserved win for a group of Americans who exited this tournament early last year.