Jason Zucker and Jordan Schroeder are good friends, teammates with the Minnesota Wild and winners of the IIHF World Junior Championship.
Zucker and Schroeder were both members of the U.S. team that historically captured the second World Junior Championship title in program history in 2010. The win not only provided a boost to the program, but it also set Zucker and Schroeder up for future success in the NHL.
“I think it showed how good and how prepared you really need to be night-in and night-out,” Zucker said. “Whether you win or lose, it shows you have to be on that even keel and make sure you’re level-headed with everything.”
That much was evident for the group when the U.S. suffered a 5-4 loss against Canada on New Year’s Eve during the tournament. The U.S. would rebound days later and hand its powerhouse rivals a 6-5 overtime defeat in the gold medal game, denying the Canadians their sixth straight championship.
“If you lose on New Year’s Eve and then all of the sudden, if you think you’re out of the tournament, then you’re probably going to lose,” Zucker said. “If you keep that level head and stay even-keeled, then it gives you a chance to come back and win a gold medal.”
That’s exactly what the Americans did that season, winning the first U.S. gold medal since 2004 and taking the second title in USA Hockey history. The U.S. won its third World Junior Championship in 2013 and finished third in 2011 and ’16, while Canada has taken one title since then.
“It was huge because I felt like it created a snowball effect, and the USA has done well the last few years” Zucker said. “Canada has had a tough time winning the past few years, and it’s not for their lack of skill because they’re a great team. It’s fun to watch that.”
Zucker and Schroeder were a key part of the turnaround.
Schroeder twice appeared in the IIHF World U18 Championships, helping the Americans to a silver medal in 2007 and a bronze a year later. He also played in the 2008 and 2009 World Junior Championships before the historic gold medal-winning year in 2010.
Schroeder finished second in the World Juniors in points in 2008 and established the U.S. record for most assists in a tournament in 2009. He scored three goals and five assists in 2010 and surpassed Jeremy Roenick as the top career point-getter of any U.S. player in World Junior Championship history.
“We had a lot of guys that were really good leaders and were able to kind of carry us through and [Schroeder] was one of them,” said Zucker, who scored two goals in 2010. “[Schroeder] was pretty dominant in most tournaments as a USA Hockey player. That was his third year playing and he was a big reason why we won.”
Zucker also credited the USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, which he and Schroeder were both part of.
“It’s something they kind of prepare you for,” Zucker said. “They want to make sure you’re ready for those tournaments.
“They feel if you prepare for those tournaments, and you perform well, it’s going to set you up for hockey later on as well. That was a big key and they did a great job.”
Zucker has fond memories of the tournament. The most significant was the resiliency displayed by his team, which lost to Canada on New Year’s Eve, only to recover and win the gold medal. He can still envision the game-winning goal, scored in overtime by Washington Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson on a 3-on-1 rush.
Those memories still come up every once in awhile between Zucker and Schroeder in Minnesota. It’s a championship memory they’ll always be able to share.
“It was great to be able to win the gold medal,” Zucker said. “It’s something that not many people get to do. Being able to say you were able to win is special and I’ll carry that with me forever.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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