Team America can finish no better than fifth in this year's World Junior Hockey Championships. The defending champions lost 5-3 to Russia in the first of the quarterfinal matches.
The Americans finished second in Group A after losing to Team Canada in regulation. This meant they had to play the third place team of Group B: Russia, who ended up there after being upset by Team Finland. Had the Americans won, they would have played an easier opponent in the Swiss.
Alas, they ended up with the more difficult opponent. Thus Jon Gillies, the sole Flames prospect participating in these World Juniors, would have to come up big in order to repeat.
Only three Americans from last year's gold medal winning team were on the roster this year: Gillies, who only played one period against the Germans in 2013; Blackhawks first rounder Ryan Hartman; and Capitals sixth rounder Riley Barber. Fellow Flames prospect Patrick Sieloff likely would have been on the team as the lone returnee on defence had he not been sidelined with an infection back in October he is still recovering from.
The game had an eventful first period. Sabres 2012 first rounder Mikhail Grigorenko opened the scoring by roofing the puck over a sprawling Gillies who was unable to gain control. The Americans answered quickly, but Russia struck back as Rangers third rounder Pavel Buchnevich scored to take a 2-1 lead. Gillies initially had the shot, but was unable to control the puck, and Buchnevich tapped it past his glove and into the net. To round out the flurry of goals, the Americans scored twice more to take a 3-2 lead after the first.
Gillies looked more settled in to start the second, and nobody could blame him for the next two goals he would let in. The Americans ran into penalty trouble, giving the Russians two extensive five on threes one after the other. Buffalo 2013 first rounder Nikita Zadorov unloaded two blasts from the point, and both made it past Gillies to give the Russians a 4-3 lead.
That was all Gillies would let in, but it was enough as the U.S. failed to score in the second and third periods. An empty netter for the Russians sealed their victory and eliminated Team America from medal contention. Gillies made 20 saves on 24 shots for a save percentage of .833%. The two even strength goals he let in were ones he'd definitely like to have back, but it happens. Unfortunately, this time it happened in an elimination game.
In the three round robin games he played in, Gillies had a combined .910 save percentage, stopping 71 of 78 shots. His tournament is over. While he only lost two games, those losses were crucial, and resulted in the Americans going home without a medal.