Howard scores twice as USA downs hometown Sweden 6-2
GOTHENBURG, Sweden — The U.S. National Junior Team, behind two goals from Isaac Howard (Hudson, Wis./Michigan State University/Tampa Bay Lightning) and goals from four additional players, defeated Sweden, 6-2, here tonight in the gold-medal game of the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship. It marks the sixth gold medal for the United States in the tournament all time.
“The guys played excellent today,” said David Carle (Anchorage, Alaska/University of Denver), head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. “It’s a joy for them. They focused on getting to this game and playing their best for the last game of the tournament and I thought they did that. It’s a great honor to be a part of a winning team.”
The U.S. finished the tournament with a 6-1-0-0 record and Team USA earned its 15th tournament medal.
Team USA struck first on a delayed penalty 16:56 into the opening period to take a 1-0 lead. Rutger McGroarty (Lincoln, Neb./University of Michigan/Winnipeg Jets) sent a cross-zone pass to Will Smith (Lexington, Mass./Boston College/San Jose Sharks) on the point, who then fired a rocket on net toward Gabe Perreault (Hinsdale, Ill./Boston College/New York Rangers) to deflect past the pad of Hugo Havelid.
Sweden’s Otto Stenberg deflected a shot from Mattias Havelid to tie the score, 1-1, at 2:13 in the middle stanza.
The U.S. took a 2-1 lead at 9:24 in the second period after Drew Fortescue (Pearl River, N.Y./Boston College/New York Rangers) sent a stretch pass to Howard, who blew past a Swedish defender on a breakaway and slid the puck past Havelid.
Howard added his second goal of the game at the 14:19 mark of the second period with a shot from the goal line that deflected off Havelid to put Team USA ahead 3-1. Gavin Brindley (Estero, Fla./University of Michigan/Columbus Blue Jackets) picked up an assist on the play.
Sweden cut the U.S. lead to 3-2 with five seconds remaining in the second frame when Jonathan Lekkerimaki buried a one-timer from the point on the power play.
Zeev Buium (San Diego, Calif./University of Denver/2024 NHL Draft Eligible) and Team USA responded with a goal 1:19 into the final period off an offensive zone face off. Perreault won the draw back to Smith, who set up Buium on the point for a one-timer that cleared the blocker of Havelid to put the U.S. back up by two goals, 4-2.
With under four minutes remaining in the contest, Ryan Leonard (Amherst, Mass./Boston College/Washington Capitals) picked the pocket of a Swedish defensemen and drove hard to the net, tucking the puck past Havelid to extend the U.S. lead to 5-2.
McGroarty added an empty-net goal with 3:10 remaining in the game and the U.S. went on to earn a 6-2 victory for the gold medal at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Trey Augustine (South Lyon, Mich./Michigan State University/Detroit Red Wings) finished with 24 saves for his eighth career victory at World Juniors.
NOTES: Isaac Howard was named the U.S. Player of the Game … Cutter Gauthier was named the Best Forward of the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship … Team USA and Sweden were even with 26 shots each … Team USA was 0-2 on the power play, while Sweden was 1-2 … The U.S. won its sixth gold medal in the IIHF World Junior Championship, with the previous five coming in 2021, 2017, 2013, 2010 and 2004 … Isaac Howard finished tied for the most goals at the 2024 IIHF World Championship (7) and Cutter Gauthier finished tied for the most points with 12 (2g-10a).