Monday, December 21, 2009

US U-20 Team Wins in WJC Tune-up

The United States Under-20 hockey team defeated North Dakota Saturday night in its pre-WJC tune-up game before a packed house at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The US squad netted three third period goals to secure the victory.

Boston College freshman Chris Kreider had two goals in the contest, while North Dakota freshman Danny Kristo and Denver recruit Jason Zucker notched the other two tallies. Wisconsin sophomore forward Derek Stepan set up two of the tallies for the US.

St. Cloud State freshman Mike Lee and Michigan recruit Jack Campbell shared the goaltending duties for the US. Lee started and stopped all 12 North Dakota shots, while Campbell played the last period-and-a-half, allowing two goals on 22 shots.

The US junior squad has a final exhibition tune-up scheduled for Tuesday night against the Czech Republic entry in the WJC. After the game, the US will get its roster down to the mandated 22-men (it currently stands at 24) before the actual tournament begins in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan next Saturday.

The US has a very good chance to medal at this year's WJC, and has an outside chance at capturing the gold. A look at the roster shows that what the team lacks in experience (only three players have prior WJC experience) it makes up for in size and scoring ability. Of the eight defensemen currently in the mix, seven are six-feet or taller, and five of them are at least 6-2. This will play well with the big Canadian team playing on its home ice in Saskatchewan. The collegiate players making the trek are off to good starts this season, many of them in freshmen seasons.

Another area of strength should be in the nets. Lee and Campbell both played well on Saturday, but look for Lee to get the nod. He has started off very well in his freshman season at St. Cloud State (2.19 GAA and .918 Sv% in 15 games) and played extremely well in the team's evaluation camp this summer.  

The Gophers' Jordan Schroeder is the team's most experienced player, with two WJC tournaments under his belt. He will be looked upon to provide leadership to this bunch, and should also provide plenty of scoring touch. He led the team in scoring in the summer's evaluation camp (5-9-14 in six games) and is a dynamic playmaker. He is the lone Gopher representative this season on a team which has historically taken many Minnesota players off the roster for two weeks around Christmastime.

The Canadians will be loaded, but will also have plenty of pressure to perform on home soil. The Russian team is always solid, but the US throttled them three times in the evaluation camp's exhibition games this summer, winning 8-1, 6-1, and 6-0.

This is a very talented US squad which should have expectations to medal. I like coach Dean Blais' team's chances to take home the ultimate prize up in Canada - which should make it all the more sweet.

No comments:

Post a Comment