Sunday, December 27, 2009

Good Start for US at World Junior Championships

The United States came away with two victories in their first two starts this weekend at the World Junior Championships in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. On Saturday night, the US overcame a slow start to defeat Slovakia 7-3. On Sunday opposition was provided by Switzerland, and the US prevailed 3-0.

Things did not start off well for the US on Saturday night. Forward Tyler Johnson (Spokane Chiefs) picked up a high-sticking major penalty and a game misconduct just 2:05 into the match, and Slovakia cashed-in twice on the power play. The US found itself down 2-0 just 5:33 into the game.

Defenseman John Carlson (Washington Capitals) knocked home a pass from Derek Stepan (U. of Wisconsin) to cut the deficit to 2-1 after the first frame. The US started out quickly in the second period when Jeremy Morin (Kitchener Rangers) notched an unassisted tally to tie the score almost three minutes in. Stepan blasted home the tie-breaker three minutes later, and the US never looked back. Matt Donavan (U. of Denver) made it 4-2 before Slovakia got one back. However, Danny Kristo's (U. of North Dakota) tally midway through the second period made it 5-3. Jordan Schroeder (U. of Minnesota) and Jerry D'Amigo (RPI) scored in the third period to make the final score 7-3.

Stepan was the leading scorer in Saturday's game with 1-2-3, while Kristo, Carlson, and D'Arrigo each notched 1-1-2.

Mike Lee (St. Cloud State U.) got the start in goal and was not overly-busy, stopping 17 of 20 Slovakia shots. The US fired 46 shots on Slovakia's goaltender Marek Ciliak.

On Sunday, US goaltender Jack Campbell (USNTDT) turned aside all 22 Swiss shots to record the shutout. Campbell made 14 saves in a busy first period, highlighted by two Swiss power plays, but coasted throughout.

The Yanks fired 49 shots on the Swiss net, and Chris Kreider (Boston College), Matt Donovan (U. of Denver), and A.J. Jenks (Plymouth Whalers) found the back of the net. Kredier's tally in the second period was all the US would need, and the other two tallies came in the game's final nine minutes. Six different Americans notched points in a balanced scoring attack.

The US takes Monday off and will face Latvia on Tuesday at 3pm CST in Saskatoon. A looming matchup with defending champion and host nation Canada will follow on Thursday night with a prime time 7pm CST face-off in Saskatoon. The medal round will follow that game.

Canada looked good in its tune-up this weekend (16-0 win over powerful Latvia on Saturday), but the US also looks strong. The game against Canada on Thursday will tell a lot about the US entry in the WJC, and may go a long way in predicting what color medal the Yanks will take home from Saskatchewan.

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