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United States goes undefeated to win gold; Czech Republic claims bronze

After a week of progressive improvement, Team Canada Red fell 6-4 in a border battle with the United States in the gold-medal game Saturday at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

The Americans opened up a five-goal lead less than 22 minutes in before Red began to chip away. Nick Wong (Orton, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) got the comeback started, Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL) scored on the power play and Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) redirected in a Nick Suzuki (London, Ont./Barrie, OHL) feed to make it a 5-3 game after 40 minutes.

An empty-net goal late in the third period clinched the gold medal for the U.S. before Suzuki added one more to the Canadian total in the final minute.

“It has been a fun experience; [there have been] ups and downs and we didn’t get the result here we wanted tonight,” said Byram, who was named to the tournament all-star team. “Still, it’s not bad coming second out of eight teams against the best players in your age group in the world. As much as its’s hard to swallow right now, it’s a plus in the same way.”

Luke Cavallin (Greely, Ont./Flint, OHL), stopped 33 shots in the Team Canada Red goal. He also earned an all-star spot alongside Byram, Team Canada Black defenceman Matthew Robertson (Sherwood Park, Alta./Edmonton, WHL), and forwards Lafrenière and American linemates Cole Caufield and Jack Hughes.

“I have a lot of respect for the boys. It’s tough going down four goals in the first period, but everyone battled really hard to come back in the game, and everyone laid it all out there in the last two periods and did their best, so I respect that,” said Cavallin. “It has just been an honour to be here, a great experience I’m sure all the teams will remember for the rest of their lives and I’m just happy I got to experience this.”

Team Canada White one-upped by Czech Republic in bronze-medal game

In the bronze-medal game earlier Saturday, Team Canada White allowed a goal each of the first two periods in a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic.

Graeme Clarke (Ottawa/Ottawa, OHL) had the lone Canadian goal late in the third period, with help from Jake Lee (Sherwood Park, Alta./Seattle, WHL).

“It is so hard to win in these tournaments now,” Team Canada White head coach Ryan Oulahen said. “Every team is a really good hockey team and every country plays a little bit different and the margins for error are extreme. I think the kids are going to learn from this and they’ll be better for it.”

Since the first World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (then known as the Quebec Esso Cup) in 1986, more than 1,600 NHL draft picks have played in the tournament, including 13 of the last 17 first-overall selections (Ilya Kovalchuk, 2001; Rick Nash, 2002; Marc-André Fleury, 2003; Alexander Ovechkin, 2004; Erik Johnson, 2006; Patrick Kane, 2007; John Tavares, 2009; Taylor Hall, 2010; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 2011; Nathan MacKinnon, 2013; Aaron Ekblad, 2014; Connor McDavid, 2015; Auston Matthews, 2016).