08.16.2009 / 9:20 AM ET
After four physical games in five nights, some frustration spilled out in the final U.S.-Russia exhibition game. Two fights and lots of pushing and shoving nearly overshadowed a 6-0 U.S. victory.
All six goals came on the power play, including two each from Jerry D'Amigo and Philip McRae. Jordan Schroeder and Derek Stepan also had goals. Michael Lee made 12 saves in goal for the shutout.
The U.S. led 4-0 after two periods, and things turned ugly in the final 20 minutes, as the teams combined for 66 penalty minutes.
U.S. coach Dean Blais used seven defensemen for the first time Saturday night, as Chris Wideman, David Warsofsky, John Carlson, Matt Donovan, Jake Gardiner, John Moore and Cam Fowler all saw time and played with different partners. The only blueliner not to play was Aaron Ness.
Up front, Robbie Czarnik, A.J. Jenks and Danny Kristo didn't play.
"We feel comfortable with a good group of guys coming out of this camp, particularly our goaltenders," said Blais. "We'll use the next few months to evaluate these players and others to solidify our roster." Blais told NHL.com he plans to announce the team in late December.
Sorry for the late game info. NHL.com's time in Lake Placid ended early Saturday morning due to family engagements. But I appreciate all of you who followed along.
Canada claims Hlinka gold; USA fourth
08.15.2009 / 10:55 PM ET
Canada skated away with its second straight gold medal at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament, topping Russia 9-2 in the final.
Canada led 2-1 after one period, but a four-goal second-period explosion salted the game away. Tyler Seguin had a goal and an assist in the onslaught, and Brandon Gormley, John McFarland and Ryan Spooner all scored goals. Gormley and McFarland each scored twice in the game, as did Jeffrey Skinner. Louis Dominque stopped 20 shots in goal for Canada.
"It's not easy having a bunch of kids coming from different areas of the country and having to one, bond as a team, and two, have different coaching with different systems they haven't played before," Canada coach Bob Boughner said. "I thought they came together and really meshed as a group and started playing the right way. They played to the Canadian identity."
Kirill Kabanov and Stanislav Galiev -- two of the better Russian prospects for the 2010 Entry Draft -- scored Russia's goals.
In the bronze-medal game, Sweden scored the game's first four goals against the U.S. en route to a 9-2 rout.
Connor Brickley and Kyle Rau scored goals for the U.S.
"We're obviously extremely disappointed in the outcome with a game that meant so much for all of us," said U.S. coach Eric Rud. "Sweden played outstanding today, and the better team definitely won."
More from the final game of the U.S. national junior evaluation camp in a bit.
Russia 6, U.S. 4
08.14.2009 / 10:10 PM ET
The tone for this one was set 64 seconds into the game when U.S. goaltender Brandon Maxwell fumbled a puck behind the net right onto the stick of Viatcheslav Kulemin, who scored for a 1-0 Russia lead.
The U.S. kept the score respectable, but Maxwell did not bring his "A" game, allowing six goals on 17 shots.
The U.S. showed a little life early in the third period, when defenseman Matt Donovan scored a power-play goal to cut Russia's lead to 4-3 2:37 into the third, but another horrible turnover ended up with Alexander Burmistrov scoring to make it 5-3 and end the U.S. threat.
Burmistrov and Vladimir Tarasenko each had a goal and an assist for Russia.
Derek Stepan had another nice game, finish with a pair of assists. Robbie Czarnik, Philip McRae and Vinny Saponari all had goals.
About the only thing that comes out of this game is the players are making coach Dean Blais' job easier when it comes to roster decisions.
"The guys that are on the bubble kind of defined themselves tonight to either have a chance or not," Blais told NHL.com. "It's pretty evident who's doing that right now. We're having a meeting to see who we want to play (Saturday) night. Maybe guys that are right there, we can separate our guys that we think are going to make the team and then there's quite a few guys that are either in or out."
Top forwards Jordan Schroeder, Chris Bourque and Kyle Palmieri, as well as first-pairing defenseman John Carlson all had the night off, so there were opportunities for other guys to step up.
"Guys are supposed to be playing for their spot and some didn't play with enough urgency and desperation," said Blais.
The other factor was strong play by Russia goalie Alexey Trifonov. The U.S. went 2-for-10 on the power play after they scored eight goals in 18 attempts in the first two games.
"I think their guy was good, you have to give them credit," said Blais. "We missed the net a few times, but he made two or three saves that were the difference in the game or us tying it. We had the opportunities.
"I don't think we had the game we had the two games we won. We had opportunities to score, but we didn't get open around the net like we should have, we passed off when we should have shot. Mentally it's a little bit of a grind, but that's how it is in the World Juniors. You work to get into the medal round and you better have your game going."
The U.S. will have one final shot to get their game back on track when they face Russia on Saturday night back on the USA rink.
08.14.2009 / 6:25 PM ET
Here are the U.S. forward lines and defense pairings for tonight's game against Russia:
Jerry D'Amigo-Derek Stepan-Danny Kristo
Chris Kreider-Philip McRae-Zach Budish
Kenny Ryan-Tyler Johnson-Robbie Czarnik
Vinny Saponari-A.J. Jenks-Jeremy Morin
Cam Fowler-Matt Donovan
Nick Leddy-Adam Comrie
Aaron Ness-Jake Gardiner
John Moore-Chris Wideman
For the third straight game, the D'Amigo-Stepan-Kristo line stays intact. Forwards Ryan Bourque, Kyle Palmieri and Jordan Schroeder all sit this one out, replaced by Johnson, Morin and McRae. O defense, John Carlson and David Warsofsky will sit, with Comrie and Wideman coming back into the lineup.
Brandon Maxwell will be in goal, backed up by Michael Lee.
The teams are just jumping on the ice for warmups. Puck drop in about 35 minutes.
My own personal 'Miracle'
08.14.2009 / 5:00 PM ET
I can honestly say that today, I have the greatest job in the world. Not only do I get to write about hockey for a living, I get to bring this blog to you from a place I'd never, ever thought I'd be.
I'm writing this from the U.S. bench in the same arena they played the greatest sporting event in North American history. Now called Herb Brooks Arena, it's the most famous ice sheet in U.S. hockey history. And I'm still wearing my skates after turning a couple of laps.
It's amazing just to sit in this place. When you think about the unbelievable history that happened right here … well, I've seen the movie, I've seen the original game footage. Now, to be a personal part of it, it's just so damn cool.
I have slightly more skating ability than your average lamp post, so there was no chance I was going to do the Eruzione Shuffle. But nonetheless I laced up the skates I haven't worn in more than a year, handed my disposable camera to the kid who just got done figure skating practice and hopped through the bench door. After a few tremulous strides, I sort of got my bearings and was able to make it around twice. As I went around, I thought, "This is where Jim Craig stood," and "This is the spot where Eruzione scored his goal."
Working for NHL.com, I've gotten to go to some great places, met a number of wonderful people and done some pretty neat things. But to say I skated on the Miracle on Ice rink, well, I can't imagine a whole lot better happening.
Oh, there is a game tonight. 7 p.m. puck drop between the U.S. and Russia. No Cold War animosity, but the players on both sides have a lot to play for -- namely, a spot on their respective country's team for the World Junior Championship.
"It's not just a game," Brandon Maxwell, who will start in goal for the U.S. tonight, told me earlier today. "It's USA-Russia on the 1980 Herb Brooks rink."
Chris Kreider, the Rangers' first-round pick in June, added, "You get butterflies just thinking about it."
I know the feeling. And you know what? The skates are still on, the rink is still empty. I feel like turning another lap or two.
I love my job.
Playing on the big ice
08.14.2009 / 12:00 PM ET
Friday night's game against Russia will be played on the big Olympic ice in Herb Brooks Arena. It's the same ice the U.S. Olympic team beat the Russians on in 1980. It's the most famous ice surface in the country.
Since all the players on the ice were born more than a decade after the greatest moment in U.S. sports history happened, I wanted to ask a few players what tonight's game meant to them.
"Last week when we got to see the rink and look at it and realize that history is there, you realize it's someplace special," forward Zach Budish told NHL.com. "When you get out there to practice you're all business, and tonight at the game it'll be the same thing, but obviously it's a special rink and obviously a big rink in our country's hockey history."
"It's kind of hard to imagine," added forward Chris Kreider. "It's surreal, I guess. It's very special, no doubt about that. I'm really looking forward to it."
"It's not just a game," said goaltender Brandon Maxwell. "It's USA-Russia on 1980 Herb Brooks rink."
Maxwell will start tonight, and he's been using this camp to straighten himself out after a rough season on and off the ice in 2008-09 that saw him demoted from the U.S. Under-18 team to the Under-17 team for a while.
"Last year was a learning experience for me, had its ups and downs," said Maxwell. "But I think things happen for a reason. Everything turned out for the best. Last year made me stronger person."
Maxwell's next stop after this camp is the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, where he'll join camp teammates Jeremy Morin and John Moore. He'll compete with Mike Morrison for the starting goaltender job.
"I would have loved to play college hockey, the atmosphere and going to school and maybe playing with a couple buddies from my team last year would have been awesome," said Maxwell. "But for me, it's different for every player. In Kitchener you get to play a few more games and I feel it's a better fit for me."
Puck drops at 7 p.m. tonight, and I'll have all the details during and after the game, so stick with NHL.com.
Canada vs. Russia for Hlinka gold
08.14.2009 / 09:15 AM ET
Sorry for the delay in blog posts. I hiked Giant Mountain on Thursday and it was quite eventful. I got deluged by rain about a half-mile in, walked back to the car, went back in again and made it to the top of the waterfall, which has unbelievable scenery. Didn't have much energy left after getting back to the hotel, having dinner and passing out. But I digress.
As the title of this post says it, the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka title game Friday will be a rematch of last year's game, which Canada won.
Canada advanced with a 9-0 throttling of the Czech Republic. The line of John McFarland, Tyler Toffoli and Tyler Seguin continued to dominate, combining for 3 goals and 3 assists. Jeffrey Skinner scored 2 goals, Jordan Weal and Jaden Schwartz had a goal and an assist each, and goalie Louis Dominique stopped all 23 shots for the shutout.
Russia, the only other unbeaten team in the tournament, advanced with an 8-4 victory against Finland.
The most exciting game of the day featured the U.S. edging Slovakia, 7-6, in overtime. The U.S. opened the third period with a 5-4 lead, but Slovakia scored a pair of power-play goals in the first five minutes of the third to take a 6-5 advantage. Defenseman Ben Marshall tied the game midway through the period with a power-play goal of his own.
In overtime, Colten St. Clair carried the puck into the Slovakia zone, cut through the circles and dropped a pass for Kevin Lind, who fired a quick shot that went between the goaltender's pads 1:26 into the extra frame.
The win puts the U.S. in the bronze-medal game against Sweden.
"The players showed some real resiliency to come back after falling behind in the third period," said U.S. coach Eric Rud. "We're looking forward to playing Sweden and coming out with a strong victory."
After taking off Friday, the teams will wrap up the tournament Saturday. Finland will play Switzerland in the seventh-place game and the Czech Republic and Slovakia will meet in the fifth-place game.
Then come the medal matches, with the U.S. and Sweden playing for bronze, followed by Canada and Russia for gold.
Meanwhile, back in Lake Placid, the U.S. is on the ice getting ready for their match against Russia tonight. I'll have some details a little later.
New drill spices up practice
08.13.2009 / 12:55 PM ET
With no game Thursday night, U.S. coach Dean Blais put his players through a spirited practice and scrimmages. He split his team into five, five-man teams and had each group play mini-games against the other. Then there was a shootout drill the players seemed to like, and the practice concluded with a new drill assistant coach Mark Osiecki implemented.
I'll explain, because it's a bit tricky. Both goals were dragged down to one end of the ice and placed at opposite sides behind the goal line. Each team had a goalie, four attacking players and two defensive players. The goal for the offense was to set up one-timers while working in close quarters. If the defense got the puck, it sent the puck across to the attacking group on the other side of the zone.
Osiecki described it as a "combination" drill, in that it helps the attacking and defending side. He said he learned it from John Hynes and Mike Eaves, who used it at the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"It's an offensive drill, that's what it's designed for," Osiecki told NHL.com. "Puck movement and hopefully you can score some goals."
He said the drill can be refined to not allow the offensive players to stickhandle with the puck at all, to encourage puck movement and get players to attack the net.
But it's also useful for defenders in helping better position themselves when defending odd-man situations or playing on the penalty kill.
"It gets them working in 2-on-1 situations, on stick positions, using their skates, and if there's a bobbled puck, can they get on it," said Osiecki. "It's a fun drill, it's very competitive."
I talked to Blais about the one line he's kept intact through the first two games, the trio of center Derek Stepan, left wing Jerry D'Amigo and right wing Danny Kristo.
"They just complement each other," Blais told NHL.com. "The line seems to be working. That's what we're looking for here. If a line seems to have a little chemistry, leave it together and see how it unfolds."
Blais said the threesome will remain together Friday night against Russia. I'll have more on them, especially Kristo, a 2008 Montreal Canadiens draft pick, in a future NHL.com story.
Two other notes from today's practice were coach Dean Blais confirming that goaltender Brandon Maxwell will start Friday's game against Russia, which will be played the rink at Herb Brooks Arena -- better known as the host for the Miracle on Ice game in 1980.
Blais also said goalie Connor Knapp, who injured his right knee on the first day of camp, will not play Saturday. Knapp went through Thursday's practice, but Blais said he's not ready to play. He said he'll decide after Friday's game which goalie will play Saturday -- Michael Lee, Jack Campbell or Maxwell.
This is the end of my day. I'll try to get an update on the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament later, but for now, I'm going to enjoy the spectacular scenery here in Lake Placid.
U.S. wins, 6-1
08.12.2009 / 9:15 PM ET
The Russians played well for about half the game, then the U.S. took over in the third period. The U.S. led 3-1 after two periods, but goals by Kyle Palmieri and Cam Fowler 1:05 apart ended the competitive portion of the game.
Palmieri had another strong game, scoring a goal, creating chances and drawing a penalty. It's his first competitive hockey since February, but he certainly hasn't looked rusty. He had a goal and an assist Tuesday night. I'll have more on Palmieri in a future story, but U.S. coach Dean Blais certainly was impressed.
"Right away we saw he was in pretty good shape, ready to go," Blais told NHL.com. "It was the timing-type things, and the physical part of it we were worried about, nothing else."
Fowler had a pair of goals, Ryan Bourque had a goal and 2 assists, and Jerry D'Amigo and Jordan Schroeder each had 2 assists. Jack Campbell went the whole way in goal for the win.
The U.S. penalty killing again was strong, as they killed off three two-man advantages, including one two-minute stretch in the second period.
"That's demoralizing when you get those chances," said Blais. "A lot of times you pull your goaltender and go up 6-on-3 and I thought they might do that. We had a lot of blocked shots and good goaltending. Your goaltending is your best penalty killer and I think he was that tonight."
Blais also praised the efforts of Bourque and Schroeder on the penalty kill.
"They're quick enough, they anticipate well," he said. "You need players that can think the game out there and play without the puck and they can do that."
The teams will practice Thursday morning and get ready for games Friday and Saturday night. Stick with NHL.com for all the happenings.
Different night, different game
08.12.2009 / 7:45 PM ET
There's a whole different vibe to tonight's game as compared to Tuesday night, and it's more than just a 3-1 score -- U.S. leading.
The Russians seem far more ready to play than they did Tuesday -- their passes are crisper, they're creating more scoring chances and instead of taking a ridiculous amount of penalties, they're drawing whistles. Russia has had a pair of 5-on-3 power plays, and had 2:47 of sustained man-advantage time in the second period. They didn't score on any of those chances, but at least they're getting them.
Robbie Czarnik scored in the first for the U.S. and Chris Kreider and Cam Fowler less than 2 minutes apart in the second to make it 3-0. Sergey Ostapchuk scored the Russian goal on a nice individual effort.
Also had a chance to chat with Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who's on hand to watch his son, Ryan, play.
"I watch closely, I'll take some notes, and if they want to hear about it we'll chat about it," Ray told NHL.com.
Five Norris Trophies, 19-time All-Star, most goals, assists and points by any defenseman in NHL history -- yeah, he might know some things about the game.
Third period is close to starting. I'll have more after the game.
Miracle on the Internet
08.12.2009 / 5:35 PM ET
Just got things working here at the arena here in Lake Placid. Here are the line combinations and defense pairings for the U.S. team tonight against Russia:
Jerry D'Amigo-Derek Stepan-Danny Kristo
Kyle Palmieri-Jordan Schroder-Ryan Bourque
Kenny Ryan-Chris Kreider-Zach Budish
Robbie Czarnik-A.J. Jenks-Vinny Saponari
Cam Fowler-John Carlson
Nick Leddy-Matt Donovan
Jake Gardiner-David Warsofsky
Aaron Ness-John Moore
It's a bit of a different look for coach Dean Blais' team from Tuesday night. The top line stays the same, but that's it. Palmieri goes from right wing to left to play with Schroeder and Bourque. Kreider goes from that spot to his natural center position, replacing Philip McRae.
McRae, Tyler Johnson and Jeremy Morin are out, with Ryan, Jenks and Saponari replacing them.
The defense pairings have been altered, also. Leddy and Donovan are the only pair to remain intact. Fowler played with Warsofsky on Tuesday, and Donovan played with Chris Wideman, who's out tonight. Also out of the lineup is Adam Comrie. Ness and Gardiner make their debuts.
As reported earlier, Jack Campbell will be in goal for the U.S.
I'll get the Russian lines a little later.
Hlinka Tourney, Day 2
08.12.2009 / 5:00 PM ET
John McFarland and Jeffrey Skinner each scored a pair of goals to lead Canada to a 6-3 win against Switzerland at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament on Wednesday.
Tyler Toffoli had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Seguin had a pair of assists.
The line of McFarland, Toffoli and Seguin has combined for 13 points in the first two games of the tournament.
"That line's got great chemistry," Canada coach Bob Boughner said. "They're a line that doesn't need many chances to bury it. Sometimes, because they're so talented, they tend to get over-creative, but our job as coaches is to make sure that they play the same as every other line."
All three players are among the best 2010 Entry Draft-eligible players in the Ontario Hockey League.
The U.S. rebounded from an opening-game loss to Russia to take a 3-2 decision against Finland. Kevin Hayes scored twice, and Charlie Coyle scored the game-winner on a penalty shot with 6:32 left in the game.
Finland scored the game's first goal with two seconds left in the first period, but Hayes -- the younger brother of Maple Leafs 2008 draft pick Jimmy Hayes -- scored twice in an 8:51 span of the second period. Linemates Austin Watson and Thomas Tynan assisted on both goals.
Finland tied the game 55 seconds into the third period, but Coyle was slashed on a breakaway with less than seven minutes left, and he converted on the penalty shot.
Cody Campbell made 20 saves in goal for the U.S.
In other games, Russia beat Slovakia, 7-1, to join Canada as the only unbeaten teams remaining; and Sweden beat the Czech Republic, 4-1.
On Thursday, the U.S. faces Slovakia, Canada plays the Czech Republic, Russia faces Finland, and Sweden plays Switzerland.
The tournament ends Friday.
Getting ready for Game 2
08.11.2009 / 1:25 PM ET
The U.S. and Russia will go at it again tonight at 6 p.m. in the second of their four exhibition matches in Lake Placid.
Both teams will have revamped lineups after the U.S. bludgeoned Russia, 8-1, Tuesday night. The U.S. scored four times on 10 power plays, and Russia was whistled for 11 penalties to just five for the host team. His team's composure is something U.S. coach Dean Blais was impressed by.
"We have to do that, we have to play disciplined hockey," Blais told NHL.com following Wednesday's practice. "Russia didn't play with all that much aggressiveness on the puck. They'll be a different team tonight and Friday and Saturday."
Blais said it was hard to find individual standouts in an 8-1 game -- "8-1 means a lot of guys played well," he said -- but he did mention goaltender Mike Lee. With Blais keeping four goalies after Sunday's roster cut-down, each netminder will get a full game to showcase himself. And in Lee's case, while he wasn't tested very much, he did make an impression.
"I don't think Mike Lee was really challenged until the third period when he had to be really good," said Blais. "I thought he made five real quality saves."
Tonight will be Jack Campbell's turn between the pipes.
"He played quite well one (intrasquad scrimmage) game and then he didn't play well in another," said Blais. "This is a big game for him, a good test for him."
Other players who didn't play Tuesday that should get on the ice today include defensemen Aaron Ness and Jake Gardiner, and forwards A.J. Jenks, Kenny Ryan and Vinny Saponari. No word on who might come out of the lineup.
Blais also said he expects a better game tonight from the Russians.
"Anytime you play Russia, I don't care if it's an intramural team, they're good hockey players," said Blais. "You watch them practice, they're well-coached. It's going to be a different night and a tougher night because of how we won last night."
Ivan Hlinka Update
08.11.2009 / 10:20 PM ET
While a few players eligible for the 2010 Entry Draft are here in Lake Placid, there are a lot more in Slovakia and the Czech Republic for the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament, which started Tuesday.
Canada, the defending champions, got past Sweden, 3-2, thanks to a goal and 2 assists by Tyler Toffoli. John McFarland, the team's captain, had a pair of assists. Tyler Seguin had a goal and an assist.
The U.S. didn't fare as well, falling 4-3 to Russia. The U.S. took a 2-1 lead after one period on goals by Mike Parks and Sam Warning, but Kirill Kabanov, who had a goal in the first period, completed a hat trick with a pair of goals in the second. Colten St. Clair scored the other U.S. goal.
In two other games, Slovakia beat Finland, 7-2; and the Czech Republic shut out Switzerland, 2-0.
In the four games Wednesday, the U.S. plays Finland, Switzerland plays Canada, Slovakia plays Russia and the Czech Republic plays Sweden.
Welcome to Lake Placid
08.11.2009 / 9:55 PM ET
NHL.com has arrived at the Olympic training center in Lake Placid, N.Y., where Tuesday marked the U.S. players' first chance to hit people other than possible future teammates for the 2010 World Junior Championship.
Danny Kristo scored twice and John Carlson had a goal and 2 assists to lead the U.S. to an 8-1 win against Russia.
Ryan Bourque, Jordan Schroeder and Kyle Palmieri each had a goal and an assist, and Zach Budish and Jeremy Morin also scored goals. Michael Lee played the whole game in goal, and allowed just Vladimir Tarasenko's goal early in the first.
The U.S. went 5-for-11 on the power play.
The game was played on a back rink adjacent to the Olympic rink -- now called Herb Brooks Arena -- that hosted the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" Olympic game against Russia.
Kristo opened the scoring 2:03 into the game, but Tarasenko scored just 29 seconds later to tie it. Twelve seconds after that, Palmieri banged in a shot on the left post to make it 2-1. Budish tipped Carlson's point shot past Russian goalie Alexey Trifonov at 11:55 of the period to make it 3-1.
Carlson made it 4-1 at 2:16 of the second, and Morin forced a turnover in the U.S. end, won a race to the puck and using his body to shield the puck scored on the backhand to make it 5-1. Bourque and Kristo scored before the second ended to make it 7-1.
Schroeder roofed a loose puck from in front with 1:58 left in the game to make it 8-1.
The U.S. looked faster in all three zones than the Russians, and the players stayed composed while Russia threw more than a few post-whistle hits.
"Coach Blais stressed staying ready to compete," Blue Jackets prospect John Moore, who had 2 assists, told NHL.com. "It's new, but not a lot has changed. You still have to show the coaches what you have."
They'll get another chance Wednesday night against Russia. The teams also will play Friday and Saturday. NHL.com will be there for all the action, so stay tuned to this blog for all the happenings.