US Wins U18 Gold

One of the things I really don't miss about the old site is that whenever some player would choose to leave the NTDP for a different opportunity, there would be a dozen or so anonymous comments from people that this was surely the apocalypse for the NTDP, and that it was time to cut the program.

It was supposed to be the end for this team when kids like Bjorn Krupp and Beau Schmitz walked away from the program for the OHL last summer. They were supposed to be done for when they dared punish Brandon Maxwell for beating up a teammate. But the truth is, individuals need a team a heck of a lot more than a team needs individuals.

One year later, neither Krupp nor Schmitz were ranked by NHL Central Scouting in their final draft rankings and are unlikely to be picked. Maxwell was forgotten about as a younger, better, far more respected kid stole the show in goal. And the US team that so many people wrote off for dead is now the best U18 hockey team in the world. That's the thing about building a team. The guys that stay matter a lot more than the guys that don't.

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I could write a whole post about Jack Campbell, and he probably deserves it. I said before the tournament, that the hopes of the US probably came down to catching lightning in a bottle in goal, and Campbell certainly did that.

This certainly doesn't make up for Ron Rolston starting Thomas McCollum again at the World Juniors and leading the US to a disaster, but he certainly deserves credit for making a gusty call to put such a young kid in a very tough spot.

I think the best thing you can say about a goalie is that his team won, and without him, they would have lost. In the semifinal against Canada, if the US is down by more than 1 goal midway through the third period, there is absolutely no chance they come back to win that game. Campbell made some great saves to keep his team in it long enough for the US powerplay to score a couple goals and steal the win.

Add a few shots onto the Russian total in the final, and the stats are nearly identical to the first meeting between the two teams, save for the Russian goal total. This time when the US built an early lead on the Russians, they held it and never let the Russians back into the game, turning the gold medal game into a cakewalk.

Most impressive about Campbell, however, is to hear what his teammates say about him. Look at this interview with Nick Mattson:

Q. Can you talk about the performance of your young goaltender, Jack Campbell?

NICK MATTSON: Unbelievable. That's my roommate right there. Couldn't be more proud of him. He's the nicest kid in the world. That's what nobody knows about him. Best guy I've ever met. I'm happy for him. It will be a good night in the room tonight.

Q. It didn't look like he was rattled at all tonight. Did you think he would be that steady?

NICK MATTSON: He's got great poise. I can't say enough about him. He's a great goaltender. His play speaks for itself. But again, I can't say enough about his personality. He's the most selfless, nicest kid I've ever met in the world and he deserves everything he gets.

A couple months ago, I was bemoaning the fact that the US had no one to back-up Mike Lee at next year's World Juniors. I think the US may have found their goalie of the future.

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