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McKenzie: Blais' tough decision changed the momentum

Bob McKenzie

1/6/2010 1:11:28 AM

While John Carlson's overtime winner was obviously the difference in the gold medal game at the world junior hockey tournament, the turning point had to be when starting netminder Mike Lee was pulled from the American net.

Full credit to US head coach Dean Blais because it could not have been an easy decision for him to make. Lee was Blais' goaltender last year on the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League but when Taylor Hall scored the goal to tie things up at 3-3, he had seen enough. 

He decided that even though Lee had won games over Sweden and Finland to get the Americans to the gold medal game, he was going to the bench in favour of Jack Campbell, a 17-year old who is up for the draft this year and had already lost to Canada in a shootout on New Year's Eve.

Campbell was heroic for the United States in this one, stopping 32 of 34 shots. He came up big in the third period and then made a game-saving stop on Alex Pietrangelo in overtime. Campbell kicked the puck out and then it was off to the races for Carlson, who score the game winner for the Americans immediately.

What a game for Campbell. He went into the tournament as a draft eligible player and went into the gold medal game as a potential first rounder. I think his stock may have just gone up a little with Tuesday's effort.

On the other hand, Jake Allen did not have the tournament he was hoping for.

Sometimes you forget this is a junior tournament and that these are kids. Allen is a St. Louis Blues draft pick and he will have to use his experience to get tougher but as the saying goes, if it doesn't kill you, it just makes you stronger. This should help him in the long run to build up that extra layer of tough skin.

Showing Resiliency

While a lot of people will talk about the heart and emotion of Canada coming back from a two-goal deficit in the third period to send it to overtime, think about the Americans for a moment. They blew that two-goal lead on New Year's Eve before losing the game and had people questioning them all the time. Trying to take away a gold medal from Canada on home-ice was not an easy thing to do.

Carlson stepped up in overtime for the American squad. Right after Pietrangelo missed a great opportunity at one end, Carlson did the deed. He got the game-winning goal against Sweden in the semi-final and he had the game-winning goal in the gold medal game. 

The rambling, gambling defenceman had his coaching staff telling him he needs to hold back every so often. He didn't hold back in the gold medal game and when the game mattered most, he got it done. 

Give full credit to the Americans for being able to bounce back under really difficult circumstances where a lot of people would have wilted.