It was what USA Hockey wanted all along. It wanted to face Canada's best players. There was never any quiet hope among the Americans that the lockout would end and send Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, Mark Scheifele, Morgan Rielly or any of the other talented Team Canada players to the NHL before the World Junior Championships began in Russia.
Not because they wanted to prove anything to their rivals, but because those who run USA Hockey prefer best-on-best competition. Just like they want to see NHL players in the Olympics, they wanted to see the best possible competition in this tournament.
While most of the country was sleeping, the Americans beat Team Canada 5-1 early Thursday morning in the semifinals to advance to Saturday's gold medal game against Sweden.
That was accomplishment enough. That they did it against the best eligible Canadians in the world made it that much better. It eliminates one more excuse for Team USA's recent international success against its rival.
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