One day after losing a hard-fought 7-4 game to Canada on the final night of preliminary-round action at the 2009 World Junior Championship in Ottawa, the U.S. squad regrouped for practice Thursday in preparation for their quarterfinal match Friday (3:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network) with Slovakia.
In the other quarterfinal, Russia will face the Czech Republic (7:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network).
Canada and Sweden received byes into the semifinals. The U.S.-Slovakia winner will play Sweden in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, while the Russia-Czech Republic winner faces Canada in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. ET. All medal-round games will be televised live by the NHL Network.
The U.S. jumped to a 3-0 lead halfway through the first period against Canada on Wednesday, but the host nation took over from there and continued to wear down the Americans.
"We lost some momentum there and (there were) some penalties," U.S. coach Ron Rolston said. "We just couldn't get the momentum back. A lot of things went wrong this game."
Thursday was about putting things right prior to taking the ice against Slovakia. While the U.S. ended 2008 on a down note, Slovakia rallied to force overtime against Finland, then won in a shootout to earn its spot in the quarterfinals.
The U.S. will need some emotion of its own, and must sustain it over 60 minutes, something the Americans couldn't do in their four opening-round games. At no point did the U.S. string together a full, solid game, either starting slowly (Germany, Kazakhstan) or scrambling late (Czech Republic).
Leading the way for the U.S. has been Jordan Schroeder, who leads the team and is third among all scorers with 10 points. Schroeder (3 goals) and linemates James van Riemsdyk (4) and Colin Wilson (3) have combined for 10 of the 28 U.S. goals in the tournament, but against Canada they were limited to just 1 assist by Schroeder and were a combined minus-7.
They'll need to be far better if the U.S. wants to win a medal, but they'll also need some help. Drayson Bowman and Matt Rust have 3 goals each, and Jimmy Hayes, who was able to get to the net against Canada, scored the second U.S. goal by getting deep and banging in a great pass from Eric Tangradi, who also has had a solid tournament.
The U.S. also will have to be sharper defensively. Teddy Ruth lost a puck in his skates that led to one Canada goal and late in the game let Angelo Esposito take a puck from him that nearly led to another. Ryan McDonagh gift-wrapped a turnover to John Tavares and then left Jordan Eberle open on the post on a Canada power play for their third goal of the first period.
Kevin Shattenkirk has supplied offense from the blue line, totaling 7 assists and 8 points, and he scored the first goal for the U.S. against Canada on a nice shot off the rush.
Thomas McCollum likely will start again Friday. He started the first four games, stopping 72 of 82 shots to post a 2.51 goals-against average and .878 save percentage.
Despite the tough loss to Canada, the U.S. isn't giving up on the tournament, or on the chance of facing the host nation again.
"We’re fine," said forward Mitch Wahl. "The tournament's just beginning and we’re going into the playoffs now. They got the win (Wednesday), but we’ll see them again."
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