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Campbell shooting for bronze against future mates

Tuesday, 01.04.2011 / 3:53 PM / News
By Bob Matuszak
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Campbell shooting for bronze against future mates

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Jack Campbell's heart may have ached immediately following the United States' semifinal loss to Canada, but his strong will has hardly been broken.

Jack Campbell
Simply put, the Stars' first-round pick (11th overall) in this summer's draft was simply spectacular in Monday's 4-1 loss to the Canadians Monday that sent the Americans into the bronze-medal game Wednesday against Sweden at the World Junior Championships. Under siege but still able to spit pucks out left and right, the prized prospect single-handedly gave the U.S. a chance to win a game it certainly didn't deserve to be in.

Campbell finished with 37 saves, including 25 over the first two periods that kept the Americans deficit to just three goals heading into the final 20 minutes.

"Jack had a great game," American forward Nick Bjugstad said. "He did everything he could. He was mentally prepared. I definitely feel bad for him."

But Campbell isn't throwing any pity-parties for himself. Instead, he's holding his head high while trying to decipher exactly what derailed the U.S. team's defense of the gold medal that he helped capture in last year's championships in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Flower mound native Chris Brown, who scored the Americans' only goal against the Canadians, expressed his disappointment about not being able to play for the ultimate prize, but he isn't downplaying the United States' ability to win a medal for only the seventh time -- but third in the last five years -- since this tournament began in 1977.

"We're disappointed because we came here looking to play for the gold medal," he said. "We battled hard through the round-robin play, but just didn't battle the way we needed to battle against Canada. But we're looking forward to playing for the bronze medal against a good Sweden team."

Ironically, Campbell's quest for hardware before returning to his Ontario Hockey League team in Windsor will come against Dallas' other two prospects that are playing in this tournament. Swedish defensemen Patrik Nemeth and John Klingberg, the Stars' 2010 second and fifth-round picks, respectively, will look to rain on their future teammates' parade in the game that will settle third place.

"I hope I score so I can say that to him," Klingberg chuckled. "He's a great goalie. He was very fast in summer camp. I just saw him in the first game against Finland here and he was great. It'll be exciting."

Nemeth also is looking forward to meeting up again with Campbell.

"He's a good goalie," Nemeth said. "I haven't talked to him here, but in the camp he looked great. He's really a smart guy."

Sweden was upset by Russia in a 4-3 shootout loss on Monday in the other semifinal game. After earning a bye thanks to an unblemished 4-0 mark in the preliminary round -- including a dramatic 6-5 shootout win on Friday over Canada that clinched the top seed in group B -- the Swedes coughed up the game-tying goal to the Russians with 1:27 left in regulation, and lost it when captain Anton Lander's attempt in the final round of the shootout rang off the post.

"I think we played with a little bit of weight on our shoulders, and didn't feel relaxed at all," said Nemeth, who turns 19 in February. "It was pretty strange. I don't really have a good explanation of what happened."

"I think we were more worried about losing than winning," the 18-year-old Klingberg added. "We were kind of just standing there and looking at each other. Myself, I didn't take the puck up during the first period. In the second period I told myself, 'Come on John, you must do it now.' But it was too late."

Through five games, the defensive-minded Nemeth had an assist and a plus-2 rating, while the free-wheeling Klingberg's goal and assist put him in the Top 20 among defenseman scoring. He's also a solid plus-3.

"He's been moving well on the ice," Nemeth said about Klingberg. "He's got a great passing game."

The 6-foot-2 Campbell, meanwhile, was the best goalie in the preliminary round when he surrendered just four goals in 3 1/2 games, and he entered the playoff round with a .957 save percentage and 1.03 goals-against average.

He's the only American goalie to win three gold medals in International Ice Hockey Federation competition, having claimed gold twice with the U.S. Under-18 team in 2009 and '10, and last year's gold medal in the junior championships. Entering the showdown with the Canadians, he had already earned a 13-2-1-1 mark with a sparkling 1.14 GAA and .955 save percentage in 18 IIHF games.

Though he gave up as many goals against Canada as he had in the four preliminary games against Finland, Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland combined, Campbell still raised eyebrows in the semifinal game.

"He was outstanding," Canadian captain Ryan Ellis said. "I expected nothing less from Jack. That's how he plays, and that's him at his best. Forty-some shots, or whatever it was, and he only lets four in. That's unbelievable. He just stood on his head, and I've seen that a lot from Jack."

Ellis should know. He and Campbell are teammates for the Spitfires in the OHL.

"He's a first-round NHLer," Ellis said. "Everyone's got a great chance when you're an NHL first-rounder."

Campbell will turn 19 four days after the bronze-medal game Wednesday. Though it won't be the ultimate golden birthday celebration, he'll nevertheless be happy with a bronze medal around his neck.

"We gave it our all," he said. "Our goal was the gold medal, but we fell a little short. It's not the way we obviously wanted it to end, but we've got one more big game to go."

One final game for Campbell to add to his legend of being the finest American amateur goalie of all time, but another opportunity for the Stars to see their netminder of the future thrive on the international stage before he eventually descends upon North Texas.

The bronze-medal game is scheduled for 2:30 CT on Wednesday.






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