USA wins gold at 2004 WJC

By Simon Richard

USA Won The Gold

In a dramatic fashion, USA
beat Canada in the final game of the WJC January 5th in Helsinki
Arena to win the gold.


The U.S. boys came back from
a 3 to 1 deficit in the beginning of the third period, scoring three successive
goals in about 10 minutes.


The game was exciting with
both goalies made great saves. When Team USA started strong soon in the game,
Canadian netminder Marc-Andre Fleury kept everything under
control for his team. On the other side of the rink, Al Montoya made
huge saves, especially when his team was trailing by one and two goals,
preventing Canada to sensibly increase his lead.


USA Coach Mike Eaves made a
change in his lines in third period. He pulled Mike Kesler from Patrick
line and placed him with Zach Parise. Kesler scored the
tying goal and O’Sullivan the two others.


The U.S. players never gave
up and had some hazardous rebounds in their favor, which as both coaches and
players of both teams recognized, made the difference.



Tears and Smiles


After the game, there were
very opposite feelings in the area where players and coaches of both teams met
the press.


“It is tough, it is tough,
pretty tough,” repeated Marc-Andre Fleury in a broken voice. “That is
the second time for me,” he added.


In tears, Daniel Paille
Team Canada captain, said he never wants again to feel like this. Tim Brent
said  “It will be very very hard to pull
off this jersey you know. I will never have a chance to wear it,” he commented.


“We gave everything we had,
we have to build on this,” said Team Canada assistant captain Maxime Talbot.


Mario Durocher coach of Team
Canada said he won silver but is not satisfied with it. “You know the pressure
is so hard in Canada,” he stated. Durocher told the press he would not make a
lot of changes if he had the chance to restart it all.


“We never gave up, that was
the key,” said Zach Parise the MVP of this WJC with pride. “We worked so
hard, this was a team effort. This is the biggest championship of my life and I
am so excited,” he also commented. We asked him if this win would have any
impact for an eventual career with New Jersey Devils. Parise replied he doesn’t
care at that time, just gold was important.


As Team USA was the underdogs
in this WJC, we asked to Zach Parise if he saw any relations with the dramatic
Olympic gold medal won by Team USA back in 1980. “It is right on line with
1980, I know now what they felt,” Parise stated.


Patrick O’Sullivan said it had a wonderful feeling he will never forget.
About the importance of the victory for him, he said “It is important for my
career, winning championships is what makes best players,” adding the more
championships you win, the more it will make you a better player.


Finally, Mike Eaves coach of
USA team said that it does not happen too many times in your life to win a
world championship. “After the second period, we all knew we could play
better.” This is so hard to win,” he also commented.  


The fourth and winning goal
was scored in a curious way. O’Sullivan tried to reach a loose puck, but Fleury
had a hand on hit and tried to send it away but the puck hitted a Canadian
defenseman an bounced back in the empty goal. Talking about this play, U.S.
coach said “Fleury will take that, he has a long career ahead of him.”


In conclusion Mike Eaves said
the National Team Development is not perfect and needs some ajustments,
especially in regard of the number of players involved in. “ But this win will
certifies it.”





During the medal procession
after the game, Mike Kesler and Jean-Paul Parise fathers of Ryan and Zach
said to us they were proud of their sons and of all Team USA. “We came from so
far! Unbelievable work,” said Ryan’s father with emotion.


“Life has his good moments,”
observed Zach’s father who said his was proud of the work done by his son and
the MVP title he won but insisted that this win was above all a team effort.


Coaches of Slovakia and Czech
Republic teams blamed members of their squad who are playing in North America
for their struggles.


Russian coach Ishmatov said
he was not satisfied of the performance of Ovechkin. Under disclosure,
some Russian players had harsh words on Ishmatov. This team obviously was not
as tightly bound as the USA or Canadian ones. From the beginning, when it lost Nikolai
Zherdev its captain when he left for Blue Jackets Columbus just weeks
before the tournament and when Ishmatov had to take back in the roster Alexander
Semin to the request of his players, it was obvious the wheel was


The stock of  Evgenii Malkin – which was indeed
very high – has increased along the WJC. He was one of the best players of his
team. An NHL scout told us he is like a computer on the ice, processes
performing in a high speed in the action of the game. When asked to describe Malkin,
some of his teammates also had the exact same comment, adding he is a real team
player with so many skills and a good guy.


Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972,
a book about the Summit Series published in 2002. At the 2003 WJC, he
collaborated for the Montreal newspaper La Presse. This year, he is
collaborating with Radio-Canada.