The World Juniors can be somewhere young players make a name for themselves. Representing their countries is one of the biggest honors for these players. Most have not played in the NHL yet, so these moments are the biggest of their careers. It’s also where one play can put your name in the history books forever.
Cutter Gauthier has been more of a playmaker during the World Juniors. He entered the semi-finals with one goal and 10 assists. Known more for his shot, it was a different approach than what we’ve seen from Gauthier during his time at Boston. Playing on a line with Rutger McGroarty and Oliver Moore, Gauthier was setting his teammates up more than he was scoring himself.
That didn’t mean he wasn’t trying to score, though. Despite leading the tournament in points, the puck wasn’t finding the back of the net. His first goal didn’t come until the final preliminary round game against Slovakia. It was the ninth goal in the 10-2 rout, but finally seeing a puck go in the net had to have Gauthier breathing a sigh of relief. Getting him going right before the medal round was also a good sign for the USA.
Adding goal-scoring to his playmaking would give the team an even more dangerous player on the ice. And that is what they got in the semi-finals against Finland. On the powerplay and tied 2-2 with under four minutes remaining in regulation, Gauthier would unleash the shot we all know too well.
Using the defenseman as a screen, Gauthier ripped a shot from the faceoff dot that went over the glove of Niklas Kokko and under the bar. Trey Augustine would help shut things down for the USA as they head to the gold medal game to take on Sweden. Gauthier would be named the player of the game and was also named one of the USA's top players at the World Juniors.
While the USA squad came into the tournament as the potential favorite, the host country has given teams a run for their money. The Swedes rank first on the power play and have the best save percentage, thanks to the tandem of Thelin Melker and Hugo Havelid. The latter has played the majority of the games for Sweden, though, and has a 0.98 GAA. Sweden didn't give up a goal until their final preliminary-round game. Hugo went 192:45 before giving up a goal and has easily been the best goaltender at the World Juniors.
USA's last two games have been much closer, and scoring won't get any easier for them against Sweden. That game will take place tomorrow at 1:30.