Without question, the future of hockey is on display at the World Junior Championships. Up-and-coming All-Stars like Ryan Ellis and Brayden Schenn from Canada and team USA’s Jack Campbell, Jerry D’Amigo and Justin Faulk are seeing their profiles raised to new heights as they compete in this highly compelling tournament.
On day three, the Canadians continued to build hopes for gold, as seven different players scored goals in their decisive 7-2 victory over the Czechs. And Team USA – the defending gold medal champions – looked to match the Canadians with a 2-0 record of their own. Coming off a nail-biter of a 3-2 overtime win over Finland on Sunday, the United States took on Team Slovakia on Tuesday night in what was expected to be no easy task.
Slovakia played the night before in an overtime thrilling win over Germany. Both teams combined for 77 shots on goal as Slovakian goaltender Dominik Riecicky and German goaltender Philipp Grubauer both delivered top-tier performances. Marek Hrivik scored the game winner for the Slovakians as he directed in a perfect cross-ice feed on the power play just 3:39 into overtime. Slovakia left HSBC Arena with two points as they prepared for their matchup with the U.S. the next night.
Team USA looked for a better offensive effort on Tuesday night, as they had difficulty getting shots through against Finland. Slovakia is a team that is always looking for a quick offensive rush down ice, and in their game against Germany, the Slovaks always had one man a little behind the play. Any look of a turnover, and that player would head down ice looking for a quick breakout pass from a teammate.
The Americans were able to set up early pressure in the Slovakia zone early, but Riecicky bailed on his team early with a sprawling glove save. Despite the pressure, it was the only major opportunity that Team USA had in the opening minutes.
Just minutes in, Charlie Coyle sent a pass to the front of the net from the boards, tipped right past the Slovakian netminder by Kyle Palmieri to give the Americans a 1-0 lead. Just moments later, Jerry D’Amigo was hit violently along the boards, giving Team USA a five-minute power play.
Palmieri scored for Team USA again on a sharp angle shot, doubling the Americans’ lead. The U.S. poured the pressure on early, as they outshot Slovakia, 11-1 and out-chanced Slovakia 7-0 just 10 minutes into the contest.
Astonishingly, the Americans’ pressure lasted the entire first period, as Slovakia only fired one shot while Team USA blasted over 20 shots on net. As a result, the Americans took a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
Just moments into the second period, Team USA was back on the power play where they managed to capitalize again. Coyle stuffed a sharp angle shot past Riecicky to give the Americans a three-goal advantage.
Later on in the period, the Red, White, and Blue would just tack on another goal as Chris Brown scored his first of the tournament to give the Americans a 4-0 lead. Seconds later, the Slovaks broke into the scoreboard with a tally from Tomas Jurco.
The Americans did not allow the Slovaks to gain any momentum. Just seconds later Drew Shore capitalized on a breakaway and turned the Slovakian goaltender inside out to give his team a 5-1 lead.
The clock began to tick down on the middle period, but the United States still weren’t finished. Emerson Etem fired a shot that will give the Slovakian goaltender recurring nightmares. A shot that went right through the body of Riecicky standing up, and the United States hit a half dozen as they led 6-1 going into second intermission.
Slovokia’s backup goalie, Juraj Holly, came into the game for to try and clean up the mess. Holly did a great job holding the US offense in check in his duties, but as the clock ticked the US moved back into first place in their pool with the 6-1 victory.
Team USA returns to the ice on Thursday with a battle against Germany at 7 p.m.