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How a disastrous 38 seconds cost Team USA a spot in the World Juniors’ finale

A pair of short-handed goals doomed Team USA before its comeback could even begin.

United States v Sweden: Semifinals - 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images

The United States’ dreams of repeating as World Junior champions will not come to pass after its 4-2 defeat at the hands of Sweden in Thursday’s semifinals. There’s still a chance Team USA will medal given that it’s set to face off in the bronze medal match on Friday, but despite a hard-fought game, the Americans still came up empty.

You can look no further to the source of American disappointment than a 38-second window in the middle stages of the third period. Despite giving up a goal to Sweden six minutes into the frame that made it a two-goal deficit, Team USA was headed on a power play right after with a chance to cut the lead in half.

Instead, the Americans ended up in a 4-0 hole by the end of their power play with their World Junior championship hopes dashed. How did this happen? Let’s discuss.

The first of Team USA’s mistakes on its power play came off a failed offensive zone attempt. Four American players were down low looking to make something happen, as teams often get aggressive in the offensive zone when trailing, but as the puck went up ice no one was able to catch the speedy Swedes.

Oskar Steen, the Swedish goal scorer, opted to keep the puck on his stick to keep things simple before firing a shot past U.S. goaltender Joseph Woll top shelf.

Failed coverage and a bad glove hand were also what ultimately put the United States down 4-0 just 38 seconds after Steen’s goal. Axel Jonsson Fjallby got the honors this time for Sweden, as his goal was placed in the exact same spot Steen’s was — high glove side on Woll.

It’s one thing to allow one short-handed goal while trailing in an elimination game, but two short-handed goals really put the game out of reach for the United States. The Americans even added a pair of goals in the game’s final eight minutes to put Sweden back on their heels a bit, but the difference in this semifinal game came down to these crucial 38 seconds.