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The Golden Goal: John Carlson’s Launching Point
Tonight, for the first time since 2010 in Saskatoon, the gold medal game of the U20 World Junior Championships will feature Team Canada and Team USA.
This time around, the host city of the championships shifts to Montreal. However, if nothing else, this fierce rivalry between next door neighbors has only gotten stronger since that game, which happens to be seven years ago to the day.
While there are no Washington Capitals prospects featured in the championship game tonight, it is a great time to look back at one of the best games in World Junior Championship history, a game in which a current Capital played the role of hero, and beyond.
The Canadians took an early lead before the U.S. stormed back and held the lead for most of the game. The Americans in fact held a two-goal advantage with three minutes separating them from gold, but two late goals from Jordan Eberle forced the game into overtime.
After an exciting end-to-end sequence in overtime that resulted in a big U.S. save, John Carlson looked Canadian goaltender Martin Jones off on an odd-man rush before ripping one home to give Team USA gold over their bitter rivals.
John Carlson was the hero in this game, but also had a stellar tournament all around. His golden goal was his second goal in the gold medal contest, and he was third among all defensemen with seven points (4G, 3A) in seven tournament games.
This moment would turn out to be a launching point for both a fantastic season and, thus far, career for the young defenseman. He was in the midst of his first season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears during this tournament, a season in which he scored four goals and added 35 assists in 48 regular season games.
His performance earned him his NHL call-up during the second half of the season, a stretch in which he scored six points in 22 games. His peak moment with the Capitals that year came during game two of their first round match-up with the Montreal Canadiens. In a series where the Capitals eventually suffered their worst upset in team history, Carlson’s emergence with a game-tying goal near the end of regulation in that game can be considered a high point and a sign of great things to come.
Despite the extreme disappointment of falling in the first round, John Carlson found himself back in Hershey for their Calder Cup run. Hershey rolled through the first three rounds, losing only three games along the way to reach their second consecutive Calder Cup final. The Bears brought the series back to the Giant Center for game six, holding a 3-2 series lead.
At the 12:29 mark of the first period, Carlson further established himself as one of the world’s top young talents with what would end up being the game and Calder Cup-winning goal. It was an incredible six months for the young star, and his stock has only risen since as he became a full-time NHL player the following season.
Team USA and Team Canada square off once again for gold tonight. While it won’t be a Capitals prospect playing the role of hero tonight, it may be another young player’s career that launches off on the biggest of stages.