Thursday, December 29, 2011

Gibson, U.S. Falter in Loss to Finland

And to think John Gibson could have been suiting up for the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit this week instead.

The Pittsburgh-born goaltender, who spurned Michigan earlier this year to play major junior hockey with Kitchener (OHL) instead, made his World Junior Championship debut against Finland on Wednesday night in Edmonton. It’s very likely he won’t want to remember this one.

Gibson, 18, surrendered three third-period goals in a 4-1 loss at Rexall Place that left the U.S. with a win and a loss in WJC play, and an absolute must-win situation against the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon. Finland rebounded from an 8-1 loss to host Canada on Monday, the same day that the Americans had pounded Denmark, 11-3, to open the tournament.

The beginning of the end for both Gibson and the U.S. against Finland happened when he took an interference penalty midway through the third period with the score tied, 1-1, and the Americans on a power play at the time. Finland proceeded to tally three unanswered goals, including two that Gibson, who was drafted 39th overall by Anaheim (NHL) this year, had at least a chance of stopping.

Joel Armia fanned on a semi-breakaway with 9:07 remaining in regulation, but the puck slid between a sprawling Gibson’s pads and into the net to give Finland the lead for good. Just 19 seconds later, Mikael Granlund’s shot from the right side deflected off Jon Merrill’s skate and inside the far post to make it a 3-1 affair.

Armia then closed out the scoring with 3:33 left when he evaded Gibson’s poke-check attempt and put the puck home to complete Finland’s first U20 win against the U.S. in six years. The U.S. outshot Finland, 39-27, but couldn’t get anything more than an early third-period shot by Brandon Saad past Finnish goaltender Sami Aittokalli.

Canada later defeated the Czech Republic, 5-0, on Wednesday night for its second WJC win in two games. The U.S. and Canada are scheduled to meet on Saturday night in Edmonton in the final group game for both teams.

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