USA nets gold, claims under 18 world title in front of record crowd
FARGO - Everybody expected a tight gold medal game between the United States and Russia at the IIHF World U18 Championship.
The United States was more than happy to make sure that didn't happen.
The Americans dominated Russia for three periods en route to a 5-0 win in front of an Urban Plains Center record crowd of 4,923.
"That was as well as we played all year," U.S. coach Ron Rolston said. "Our defensive flow was outstanding. We limited their best players' opportunities, and (goaltender) Jack Campbell made the saves when we needed them.
"We knew the team that was going to win this tournament was the team that got better through the course of it. I thought we did that."
Russia was the only team to beat the Americans, topping them 6-5 in the final game of pool play.
The United States made sure Russia didn't get a chance to repeat that performance with a smothering defensive effort led by Fowler - who was named the top defenseman in the tourney.
Jack Campbell needed to make just 17 saves for the shutout, and stopped just nine shots through the first two periods combined.
The Americans got a power-play goal from Fowler just 2 minutes, 9 seconds in and they were on their way.
Matthew Nieto added another goal midway through the first, and William Wrenn added another in the second.
Chris Brown and Ryan Bourque added goals just 1:10 apart in the third to cap the rout.
"To get that first goal gave us a lot of momentum and let us breathe out a little bit," Fowler said. "Coming into big games like this, it's so important because your emotions are running wild."
The Russians weren't able to mount any real sustained pressure in the American zone, and Campbell was pressed to make a big save only a few times.
"Our forward did an unbelievable job coming back and our defense took care of everything else," Campbell said. "We held them to perimeter shots all night."
The gold medal was America's first since 2006.
Russia wasn't just the United States' lone setback in this tournament. The Americans lost to Russia in last year's semifinals, and in the gold medal game of the 2007 tourney.
"Most importantly, we were able to do it at home, and to do it here in Fargo was great," Rolston said. "For what all of these people have been through, you wouldn't know it from the support we got."
Finland's Toni Rajala was named the tournament's top forward. Russia's Igor Bobkov was named best goaltender.
FIRST PERIOD: 1, US, Fowler (Shore), 2:09 (pp). 2, US, Nieto (Lynch, Brown), 9:27.
SECOND PERIOD: 3, US, Wrenn (Shore), 1:55 (pp).
THIRD PERIOD: 4, US, Brown (Zucker, Shore), 2:29. 5, US, Bourque (Mattson, Ryan), 3:39.
SAVES: R, Bobkov 12-13-13--38. US, Campbell 5-4-8--17.
Forwards: Toni Rajala, Finland. Jerry D'Amigo, United States. Vladimir Tarasenko, Russia.
Defensemen: Cam Fowler, United States. Tim Erixon, Sweden.
Goaltender: Jack Campbell, United States.