It wasn’t quite “the Miracle on Ice” from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York; although, a 3-1 victory over Sweden for a Gold Medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship this past Saturday January, 5 2013 in Ufa, Russia was just as nice for Spirit captain (Pittsburgh, Pa native) Vince Trocheck (a Florida Panthers third round pick, 64 overall in the 2011 NHL draft) and the other twenty-two members of Team USA. Trocheck’s empty-net goal with 16 seconds left in the game secured the Gold Medal for Team USA.
With the current NHL lockout, this premier event –which features the best hockey players under the age of twenty in the world, from the ten best hockey countries in the world- was exactly what many hockey-starved fans around the globe needed as we moved from 2012 to 2013 last week. The tournament was broadcast internationally on the NHL network and featured thirty players from the Ontario Hockey League, including two players from the Saginaw Spirit.
Spirit goalie, Jake Paterson (a Detroit Red Wings third round pick, 80 overall in the 2012 NHL draft) earned a spot on (tournament favorite) Team Canada as an eighteen year old –quite an accomplishment in itself- leaving him eligible as the top goal tending prospect for the tournament next year. Spirit captain, Vince Trocheck had an experience I’m sure he’ll never forget as he reported on his twitter account just minutes after he helped lead his team to Gold in Russia, “Speechless; USA Gold Medal Champs! One of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt in my life; We did it! #USAWJChampions,” an elated Trocheck tweeted from the Team USA dressing room. Trocheck also had an assist on Rocco Grimaldi’s first-of-two goals in the championship game. The Gold Medal was just the third for Team USA in the thirty-six year history of the tournament; while it was also the third medal –of any kind- in the last four years for the U.S. program.
Team USA kicked off the tournament with an 8-0 win over Germany; then faced elimination following two consecutive losses to Russia (2-1), and Canada (2-1) respectively. The tough U.S. team poised themselves and rattled off four straight (elimination game) victories on their way to gold.
In the fourth game of the tournament, Team USA beat Slovakia 9-3. The Americans then blanked the Czech Republic 7-0 in the quarter finals behind an amazing performance by Team USA (and Kitchener Rangers) goalie, John Gibson; which set up a re-match against tournament favorite, Canada.
Gibson (also a native of Pittsburgh, Pa) would go on to be named the tournament MVP; while Team USA would eventually get sweet revenge against their North American brothers, beating the Canadians 5-1 in the semi-final game. Finally on Saturday, Trocheck helped his Country with a two-point performance (1-goal, 1-assist) in the 3-1 Gold Medal win against Sweden on Saturday. Trocheck finished the tournament with 3-goals, and 3-assists for a total of 6-points for his country in the 2013 IIHF World Jr. Hockey Championship tournament.
Team USA coach (former NHL player) Phil Housley talked about his team’s effort in an article on usahockey.com following the game. “I couldn’t be more proud of our players and staff,” said Housley on usahockey.com website. “I’m really happy for hockey fans in our country. This was a total team effort throughout the tournament. It was a very difficult challenge tonight against an excellent Swedish team. We had a terrific experience here and I’d like to thank the Russian Hockey Federation for being an excellent host.”
The Spirit will honor Trocheck and Paterson; along with rookie defenseman, Brandon Prophet -who represented Ontario at the under-17 World Hockey Challenge- which took place December, 29 2012 through January, 4 2013 in Victoriaville and Drummondville, Quebec. The three Spirit players will be honored at the Dow Event Center Wednesday evening January, 9 2013 prior to the Spirit game against in-state rivals, the Plymouth Whalers. Faceoff is set for 7:11 p.m. tonight. As usual, we will be looking forward to seeing you down at the Dow tonight…..