But first, to wrap up yesterday's Relegation Round action, Finland assured themselves a place in next year's tournament with a 8-0 win over Germany on Wednesday and Slovakia did the same with their 5-3 win over Latvia on Thursday, setting up a deciding game between Latvia and Germany.
Latvia did give themselves a glimmer of hope by scoring first, but 3 second period goals my Germany put them on track to safety. They sealed the deal with a pair of third period goals before Latvia scored a late goal to make the final score 5-2 for Germany, who remain in the Top Division, while winless Latvia is relegated to Division I Group A. Their place will be taken in 2014 by Norway, who outlasted Belarus to gain promotion.
The Bronze medal game between Canada and Russia was a spirited affair to say the least, with five goals in the first period alone. Russia jumped out to a 2-0 lead within the first five minutes, but Canada got one back at 6:58, but less than a minute later, Kirill Dyakov chased Jordan Binnington from the Canada net with his first goal of the year at 7:54.
Before the period ended, Canada pulled within one when Jonathan Huberdeau scored on the power play at 15:51.
The Canadians evened the score on the power play at 3:16 of the second and the teams traded goals later on to send the game into the third period tied at 4-4.
Nail Yakupov's second goal of the game put Russia in command one minute into the third period, a lead that held up for half the period until Brett Ritchie third the game once more at 5-5.
Regulation finished without any more scoring, sending the game into overtime, where it would take just 1:35 for the Russians to delight the home fans and break Canada's medal streak at 14 years, dating back to 1999, when Valeri Nichushkin ended it in favor of Russia by beating Malcom Subban for the medal winner.
With the opening act now completed, Sweden and the United States took to the ice for the gold medal final. The United States controlled the opening period, holding the edge in shots 11-7, but could not solve Swedish goaltender Niklas Lundtröm so the period ended even at 0-0.
A late penalty against the US put Sweden on the power play to start the second period, and they cashed in at 1:09 when Filip Sandberg put Sweden on top 1-0.
Rocco Grimaldi got the Americans even with his goal at 7:42, a sharp-angled shot that somehow found it's way through and behind Lundström, who seemed to have the near side sealed off.
Less than 3 1/2 minutes later, Jacob Trouba held in a clearing attempt and launched it toward the goal, where it banked off of Grimaldi and changed direction enough to sneak past Lundström for a 2-1 United States lead at 10:27.
The strong United States defense stood strong, particularly goaltender John Gibson, and denied every attack for the remainder of the game, aided by the discipline of the US, as they only took a single penalty for the remainder of the game.
With Lundström pulled late in the game, Vince Trocheck maintained focus when a desperate Swede hurled his stick in an attempt to deflect the puck and buried it for a empty net goal to seal the victory with just 16 seconds remaining, allowing the United States to exhale and begin the celebration of their 3-1 victory and the third World Junior Championship gold medal in U. S. history.
It was a great result for the United States, having looked like anything but a winner following their 5-1 loss to Finland in the last tune up game and then losing to both Canada and Russia in the Preliminary Round, although by close 2-1 scores in both games.
They demolished Slovakia (a team that took Russia to overtime) 9-3 to secure their place in the Playoff Round and were officially on a roll when then destroyed the Czech Republic 7-0. They then shocked everyone, including their own supporters, with a 5-1 pasting of Canada in the Semifinals to advance to the Final, where they took care of business against Sweden to cap off a great run after their third place finish in the Preliminary Round.
US goaltender Gibson was named the tournament MVP and Trouba was selected as the Best Defenseman. Ryan-Nugent Hopkins of Canada was selected the Best Forward.
American Jake McCabe on defense and forwards Filip Forsberg of Sweden and John Gaudreau (USA) joined Gibson, Trouba and Nugent-Hopkins on the Media All-Star Team.
Here are the highlights from the gold medal final between the United States and Sweden.
Special mention must be made of the perpetual motion Russian cheerleaders, whose fuzzy white pom-poms never stopped moving over the course of the entire tournament. They smiled and looked engaged the entire time, changing into an endless array of outfits. Watching any other hockey for the rest of the season without them churning away in the corner just won't be the same.