Heading into last night's World Junior Championship game between the United States and Canada, Team USA coach Dean Blais was going to go with the hot hand when he decided on his starting goaltender. Mike Lee had started the previous two games against Sweden and Finland and in Blais' eyes, earned the nod to try and win gold for the U.S.
It took a little more than a period, but Blais needed to go back to 17-year-old Jack Campbell, his goaltender when Canada beat the U.S. 5-4 in a shootout on New Year's Eve, after Lee allowed three goals on seven shots. The last shot Lee faced tied the game at three and allowed Inside College Hockey to Tweet, "Blais going to Campbell in mid 2nd is like the Yankees going to Rivera in the 7th." Enter Campbell who settled down what was a back-and-forth game and was the single reason the U.S. held a 5-3 lead late in the third period before Canada, ahem, Jordan Eberle(notes) took matters into his own hands scoring twice to send the game to overtime.
Campbell, who is eligible for the 2010 NHL Draft, stopped 32 or 34 shots face in relief of Lee. After the game, John Carlson(notes), the overtime hero for Team USA, reiterated the job Campbell did keeping the U.S. in the game.
Having already seen Canada once already in the tournament, Campbell used that experience to his benefit last night as he told NHL.com:
"I tried to stay more poised, don't get rattled at all," said Campbell when asked what he learned from that Dec. 31 game. "Things will take care of themselves and my teammates will take care of me."
He also said that getting the call to replace Lee was surprising, but he was ready to step in given the dicey situation for Team USA:
"I was a little surprised," he said. "I wasn't sure what they were going to do. The way we prepare, the way we've been preparing the last two years in Ann Arbor (Mich., home of the U.S. National Team Development Program) is be ready for any situation -- and that's what happened tonight. Mike took us through this tournament, he was unbelievable. When I had to step up and help my team, I did. When they had to step up and help me, they did."
Every year at the World Junior Championships we watch the top prospects from around the world and every year a certain few players not on many people's radars make a name for themselves. Campbell was one of the top-rated goaltenders when NHL Central Scouting released their preliminary North American junior rankings in November and now with a World Juniors gold medal, he'll have more eyes watching him going forward as the June Entry Draft creeps up.