LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- United States national junior team coach Mark Osiecki said after the morning skate Wednesday that the decision was made to play goaltender Thatcher Demko for the entire game against Sweden with the hope that he could show why he arrived for this week's junior evaluation camp as the frontrunner to be the No. 1 goaltender for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
It was no surprise that Demko's first 60-minute outing turned into his best performance at the camp. Demko, a Vancouver Canucks prospect, stopped 20 of 21 shots in the United States' 7-1 win against Sweden.
"The first three games I played I wasn't happy with it," he said. "I wasn't seeing the puck too well, wasn't playing very well. ... Today I was fortunate enough to play the whole game and I felt like I started to play more like myself. Shook the rust off a little bit and we were fortunate enough to win."
Demko had allowed eight goals on 27 shots while playing parts of three previous games. While the workload was harder Wednesday, Demko said he had an easier time handling things because he knew he'd have the net for the whole game.
"It's a little bit easier to find a groove [playing 60 minutes], Demko said. "Even when you only play half the game you try your hardest to treat it like a real game and sometimes that's hard to do. Today, playing all 60, I felt like I was a little bit more prepared. Especially coming off these last three games I felt I had something to prove to the coaching staff and my teammates."
Demko might have thought so but none of his teammates were concerned.
"I was with him at the [United States National Team Development Program] so I've watched him for a whole year," teammate Sonny Milano said. "He's one of the best goalies I've ever seen. This isn't unexpected for me. This is what I expect from him."
Osiecki also was happy with what he saw.
"What he showed [Wednesday] is something that can really help our squad," he said.