Team USA had their way with Germany on Sunday as three LA Kings chipped in to earn the Americans the bronze medal at the 2021 Worlds.
While the gold medal is the main goal at any international tournament, there is still something to be said for the importance of the bronze-medal game. For Team USA, this was evident on Sunday as, with the help of a few LA Kings players, decisively defeated Germany to earn bronze, closing out the 2021 World Championship on a positive note.
While it may be known as, for all intents and purposes, a consolation prize, the bronze medal nonetheless holds a certain amount of significance at any international tournaments — and the 2021 Worlds was no exception.
Given that both teams participating in the bronze-medal game had their gold-medal hopes dashed just the previous day, few would have blamed them for wanting to pack it in, for lack of a better term, and focusing on returning home rather than the game at hand. Of course, if anyone was worried that Team USA wouldn’t bring their A-game against Germany, those concerns would be discovered to be ill-founded.
In Sunday’s bronze-medal game, it was all Team USA.
Kings defenseman Christian Wolanin opened the scoring in an otherwise quiet first period. But, the Americans poured it on in the second, scoring four times — including a goal from fellow King Trevor Moore and an assist from the aforementioned Wolanin.
Cal Petersen even got the call in net again for the second-straight day and, as per usual at this tournament, he was stellar. The only blemish on the Kings’ netminder’s record on Sunday was that his shutout was spoiled in the third period but aside from that, No. 40 was on his game, turning away 32 of 33 shots to preserve the victory.
“Today was just a perfect example [of the] kind of character that we have in the room,” Petersen said in the post-game media call. “I think it’s kind of known that this is the hardest game to play because you have the ultimate letdown of not being able to play for a championship like every team and every guy sets out to do, but I think we realized that, like [Justin Abdelkaeder] was saying, we had a really special group, and we wanted to end this thing on the right note, and I think we deserve that it ended on the right note, and I think we were just going to find a way today regardless and I think every guy showed up. We said that this game was going to go our way regardless of whatever got in our way, and I think that shows a lot about the guys here. It shows a lot about the kind of people that USA selects to be on the team and I’m extremely proud to wear this medal and to be part of this team.”
Team USA head coach Jack Capuano spoke to the media following the victory. He was proud, to say the least.
“We talked last night a little bit about the emotional loss that we had and we just have to put that behind us, but at the end of the day, we competed hard,” Capuano emphasized. “We did a lot of good things throughout this tournament and, I said it from day one, structurally, they were sound, they were– the attention to detail. Mistakes were going to be made but we recovered through our work ethic, so we’re just so proud as a staff and management to be around these guys. They’re high-character guys and just the compete level was outstanding throughout this tournament.
“I think the performance of our team tonight, the motivation to win a medal, it does it for us. It didn’t matter whether it’s gold or not. We have a young bunch of guys that came here, that didn’t know anybody, 10 guys are getting the chance to play in this tournament– It was disappointing to lose to Canada but you can see the character of these guys and how hard they competed to go home with a medal. So, we came near obviously with a goal and to be quite honest, we’re going home with a medal and the guys should be very proud of this young group. I know USA Hockey and the organization, the way that we competed and played here today.”
Other Kings connections worth noting: Tage Thompson, son of former King Brent Thompson, registered three assists, while former King Brian Boyle finished with a plus-one rating. There were also some California connections as well as Arcadia-born Jason Robertson, who was named Team USA’s Player of the Game, scored a goal and Sasha Chmelevski of Newport Beach collected an assist. Kings defenseman Matt Roy, who was injured in the quarter-final, did not play on Sunday.
For the current Kings, they were all phenomenal in Latvia.
Trevor Moore finished the tournament with nine points (5+4=9) and +7; Christian Wolanin finished the tournament with six points (1+5=6) and +8; Matt Roy finished with one assist but was a huge asset defensively until his injury; Cal Petersen tied for the tournament lead among goaltenders with five wins and two shutouts, led all netminders with a 95.34 save percentage while earning himself a solid 1.29 goals-against average — second only to Finland’s Jussi Olkinuora.
It may not be gold but Team USA did earn themselves a medal nonetheless. It was a highly successful tournament for the Americans, especially with injuries to captain Justin Abdelkaeder, top prospect Matt Beniers, and goaltender Anthony Stolarz, in addition to Matt Roy. Overall, there were a lot of positives than negatives for Team USA at this tournament and everyone involved, including the productive Kings contingent, should feel enormous pride as they return to North America.
With the win, eight current Kings players — nine if you include prospect Kim Nousiainen — will win medals in Latvia at the 2021 Worlds. Who wins gold and silver, however, has yet to be determined but we will see later today when Canada and Finland face off.