I look back at the worst calls, player choices, and coaching decisions in the history of the World Junior Tournament. One entry for every day of the event, so check back often!
The USA was a clear favourite against the Slovakian side coming in to the 2009 quarter-finals. They easily outchanced the Slovaks and outshot them 47-19, but somehow lost the game 5-3. Even though the US had many chances to recover, the defining moment to me came early on.
With six and a half minutes remaining in the first period, Slovakia again found itself under siege in the defensive zone. Team USA had just tied the game up at 1-1 on the power play and were pressing for more. Desperate to clear, the Slovakian defenceman launched the puck the length of the ice to no one in particular. US goaltender Thomas McCollum stayed tight to his post and let the puck go squeaking by the outside of the net, apparently hoping for an icing call. The puck clearly went through the crease, negating any icing. The US would win the race to the loose puck but promptly turn it over, allowing Tomas Tatar to walk through the slot and score to give the Slovaks a 2-1 cushion.
Video: Jeff Vaillette
In a game where your team has obvious pressure and the Slovaks are obviously preferring an icing and a regroup after the whistle in this case, McCollum would have been better off playing this puck up quickly for a counter attack. But even if you don’t like that option, he should have known this was never going to be an icing and stopped the puck and settled it down to initiate the breakout. His option C could only lead to disaster.
The US could very well have recovered from this early poor decision, but it was a tone setter for both teams. The crowd, already partly behind Slovakia, was energized by the goal and it made for a less encouraging environment. The first goal McCollum gave up was kind of soft, and this mental error didn’t help him much down the stretch as it became one of those days afterwards. It was more of a “here we go” than a turning point, but the same damage was done and it cost the US getting anything out of the 2009 tournament.