After defender Lane Hutson dipsy-doodled his way to the Swedish goal and was foiled by goalkeeper Carl Lindbom, Lucius backhanded the puck home at 2:06.
"You’re on a big stage and for the game to end in that fashion is kind of cool," said U.S. defenceman Jack Peart. "It’s awesome that it went our way. Giving up seven goals isn’t good, but we got the job done and got the bronze medal."
It’s the U.S.’s seventh World Junior bronze medal of all time and first since coming third on home ice in Buffalo (2018). The Swedes fought back from second-period deficits of 3-1 and 5-3, but will go home emptyhanded.
"I think we fought all the way through, even though we were two goals down more than once, and then we fought to tie the game in the final minute," said Swedish defenceman Adam Engstrom. "But we didn’t get a win today, so it’s not enough."
Defensively, this was a wild and messy affair that saw U.S. starting goalie Trey Augustine pulled in favour of Kaidan Mbereko after letting Sweden tie it up with two late-second period goals in 26 seconds. However, it provided great entertainment for the Scotiabank Centre fans, with or without a rooting interest.
This result matches the record for the most goals scored by both teams (15) in a bronze medal game. The record was set in Sweden's 11-4 romp over Switzerland in 2010.
Among the other U.S. scorers, Cutter Gauthier tallied twice and Logan Cooley and Ryan Ufko added a goal and an assist apiece. Luke Hughes had a single. Rutger McGroarty had three assists, while Jimmy Snuggerud and Jackson Blake each added a pair of helpers.
For Sweden, Filip Bystedt had two goals and an assist, and Leo Carlsson had a goal and an assist. Oskar Pettersson, Milton Oscarson, Liam Ohgren, and Noah Ostlund also scored. Isak Rosen and Ludvig Jansson added two assists apiece. Jansson leads all tournament defender with four goals and six assists.
Final shots were, appropriately, even at 36-36.
Both teams were looking to bounce back from devastating semi-final losses – albeit very different ones.
The U.S. fell 6-2 to archrival Canada after blowing a 2-0 first-period lead, despite outshooting the defending champs 45-37. They also had two goals disallowed for goalkeeper interference. The Swedes were poised to go to the final with a 1-0 lead over Czechia in the last minute of regulation, but David Jiricek’s blast tied it up, and then Jiri Kulich won it in overtime on a great rush.
Snuggerud won a puck battle behind the goal line with Swedish assistant captain Victor Sjoholm and backhanded a centering pass to the U.S.’s leading scorer. The University of Minnesota centre hammered a close-ranger slapper past Lindbom’s glove at 2:51. It was his team-leading seventh goal and made him the lone American to register at least a point in every World Junior game here.
Swedish forward Fabian Lysell’s tough tournament ended early. The Boston Bruins first-rounder (2021, 21st overall) registered zero points in six games. He exited the bronze medal game with a five-minute major and a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head of the U.S.’s Kenny Connors.
The American power play turned into a 4-on-4 just five seconds later when Gavin Brindley went off for holding. Yet when the U.S. returned to the man advantage, the closest they got was a centre point drive from Hughes that rang off the post.
Just 1:51 into the second period, Ufko put the U.S. up 2-0 on the power play. His wrister from the middle eluded Lindbom with Dylan Duke screening in front.
Sweden had an answer at 3:33. Off the rush, Bystedt cruised into the U.S. zone, took a back pass from Jonathan Lekkerimaki, and handcuffed Augustine with a laser to the glove side.
Lucius was not to be denied when he walked in alone and roofed one for a 3-1 U.S. lead at 5:04.
The Swedes cut the deficit to 3-2 at 6:35. Oskar Pettersson powered in off left wing into the left faceoff circle and snapped home a glove-side wrister.
At 8:52, the Swedes made it 3-3. Ufko turned the puck over when he fluffed the first pass out of his zone. Bystedt pounced, backhanding the puck to Fabian Wagner, who set up Carlsson for his third goal of these World Juniors.
Of the Canadian fans who chanted, "Let's go Sweden!", Peart said: "The fans had fun with it too. A high-scoring game that was fun to watch. I’m going to say they were against the U.S."
Less than two minutes later, Gauthier restored the U.S. lead with a power play one-timer under the cross bar. He immediately cupped his ear toward the crowd, which responded befittingly with silence.
At 13:37, an onrushing Lucius dodged defenceman Jacob Noren's stick check inside the Swedish zone and whipped a wrister past Lindbom for a 5-3 U.S. gap.
Oscarson ended a long Swedish power play drought with his 4-4 goal at 18:52. The Juniorkronorna’s last power play goal had come in the 5-1 loss to Canada to close out the group stage.
Augustine's blunder led to Ohgren's 5-5 equalizer with just 42 seconds left in the middle frame. The 17-year-old U.S. National Team Development Program product came out to play the puck but handed it straight to Ohgren, who fired it into the gaping cage to the crowd's delight.
Four minutes into the third period, Ostlund gave Sweden its first lead when he quickly looped out from behind the U.S. net and beat a kneeling Mbereko high to the short side. It was the 18-year-old Djurgarden forward's first goal in his first World Juniors.
Lindbom denied Cooley on a breakaway when he tried going backhand five-hole. But just seconds later at 8:17, Hughes scored a strange highlight-reel goal, using his great hand-eye coordination. Bumped to the ice by Sjoholm while pivoting in the faceoff circle on the rush, the U.S. captain swept his stick around to slide the puck past the surprised Swedish goalie for a 6-6 tie.
With Carlsson off for tripping, Gauthier poked home a loose puck in the crease with 1:37 remaining. It was the third American power play goal of the afternoon. The officials video-reviewed the go-ahead goal and deemed it good.
"They have good structure but we let them get too many shots and we didn’t control the front of the net," Engstrom said. "They pushed a lot of goals in from there."
But on a day like this, you knew there was more to come. With 21 seconds left, the Swedes flooded the U.S. zone and Bystedt banged a rebound into an empty net to send this game to overtime.
Historically, the World Junior rivalry between these two nations has been incredibly even. The U.S. now holds the smallest head-to-head advantage: 19 wins, 18 losses, and two ties.
"There were a bunch of mood swings in the game, but we stuck with it," Peart said. "It’s a tough game to show up to after a tough loss yesterday, but we got the job done."
The U.S.’s Tyler Boucher, who had three goals and one assist at these World Juniors, missed the bronze medal game due to injury. The Ottawa 67s star was replaced by Noah Laba, who made his World Junior debut. Laba is a 19-year-old Colorado College freshman who has never appeared in IIHF competition before.
The U.S. also won all three of its previous bronze medal games against Sweden (2007, 2011, 2016).
Neither team can be completely satisfied with its run in the Maritimes. The Americans last won gold in 2021, dethroning Canada 2-0 in the Edmonton pandemic bubble. Sweden hasn’t earned gold since Mika Zibanejad’s 1-0 overtime goal against Russia at the 2012 World Junior final in Calgary.
The Swedes will look to improve on this year’s result when they host the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg.