Team USA very nearly had enough magic to pull off a wild comeback in the gold-medal game of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship, Sunday in Minsk, Belarus, but Russia survived a thrilling finish to earn gold with a 3-2 win over the Americans.
After the Russians took a 3-1 lead with a pair of tallies early in the third period, Madison native Phil Kessel scored his seventh goal of the tournament with one minute, 38 seconds left in the game to draw the U.S. within one goal. With 13 seconds left, Team USA appeared to register the game-tying goal but it was waived off because the net had been dislodged.
It was the first blemish of the tournament for Team USA, which won its first five contest by a combined 25-7. Team Russia finished 4-0-2 while the Czech Republic beat Canada 3-2 to win the bronze medal.
Forward Matt Auffrey, an Evans Mills, N.Y. native who will join Wisconsin's hockey team in the fall, had two goals and three assists in six tournament games. Jack Skille, a Madison native and Verona High School athlete who has verbally committed to Wisconsin for the 2005-06 season, had one goal and one assist. Kessel, another Madison native, tied for the tournament lead in goal scoring and finished fifth with 10 total points.
The gold medal contest represented the third straight year that the U.S. and Russia met in a medal game at the World Championship, and the second time in three years that the United States qualified for the finals. The U.S. defeated Russia to take home the gold medal in 2002 and last year lost in the bronze-medal game, finishing fourth.