-- The U.S. National Junior Team played like world beaters Thursday in moving one win closer to earning a bye into the semifinal round of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The defending gold medalists scored a pair of power-play goals and played airtight defense on the way to a 4-0 victory against Germany in preliminary-round action at HSBC Arena.
A victory against Switzerland on Friday (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) will assure the U.S. first place in Group A and a spot in the tournament semifinals.
The U.S. opened a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals 48 seconds apart by Charlie Coyle
and Jerry D'Amigo
to compromise Germany's defense-reliant game plan. U.S. goalies Jack Campbell
and Andy Iles combined on a 14-save shutout.
"From a coaching standpoint, you're also worried about when that first goal will come," U.S. coach Keith Allain said. "We've seen enough of these tournaments in the past where you see one team control a game and are unable to score and all of sudden they get a quick one. That's when guys start to press. So it was very important for us to get not just one, but the second one."
Coyle scored a power-play goal 12:37 into the game to get it started.
"It was a little scrum along the (left wing) boards, and I broke loose to get it and broke through on a 2-on-1," Coyle said. "I used my body to defend him and got it up and found the back of the net."
D'Amigo notched his first of the tournament, unassisted, off a turnover to give the U.S. a 2-0 edge. He tied for the team lead with 6 goals last year in Saskatoon.
"It's good to get the monkey off the back and we began playing with confidence again after those two goals," D'Amigo said. "They kind of threw it right to me, so I'll take it when I can get it."
The U.S., which outshot Germany 48-14, did a masterful job of containment in the neutral zone while providing great support in its end. Germany entered the game having outshot its previous two opponents 109-105, but much like its 6-1 victory against Slovakia on Tuesday, the U.S. totally bottled up their opponent to the point of total frustration.
At no time was that more obvious than at 12:59 of the second, when Germany's Bernhard Keil
cross-checked D'Amigo head-first into the boards behind Germany's net. It marked the second time in two games that D'Amigo was on the receiving end of a hard, illegal hit.
"I think I have a big target on my back … it's funny," D'Amigo said. "I don't care. As long as I'm not getting hurt, (against Slovakia on Tuesday) was a close call. I'm just playing hard. I'm going into areas that people don't want to go into and it's tough. I take it and as long as it's not hurting me, I'm prepared."
On the ensuing power-play, Chris Kreider
-- who tied D'Amigo with 6 goals at last year's tournament -- scored his first of the tournament when he fired home a one-timer from the slot off a picturesque feed by Kyle Palmieri
Palmieri actually changed positions with Coyle on the play. He skated low in the left circle and patiently waited for Kreider to gain position in front before hitting his tape just 11 seconds into the man-advantage to make it 4-0. From that point, Germany had the look of a beaten team.
"The U.S. team plays on a different level than our team," German coach Ernst Hofner said through an interpreter, assistant coach and former NHL defenseman Uwe Krupp
. "That's a team whose goal is to win the world championship. The only chance we had in the game was when they let off the gas pedal and were able to play with them a little bit. But there's a world of a difference between those two teams. The U.S. is a fast-skating team that's well coached and they know each other from the U.S. program and various festivals.
"It's the product of a very good U.S. program and their success over the last few years is not an accident. It's designed, and this year they have a team that could again win the championship."
U.S. goalie Jack Campbell
, who entered the game with a sparkling 1.46 goals-against average and .942 save percentage, earned his third straight win. Campbell has yielded just three goals on 66 shots in the tournament. The Dallas Stars
' top pick in the Entry Draft last June was especially sharp in the second when he turned aside 10 shots, including a point-blank attempt by Marcel Noebels
from between the circles with 5:23 left. He also stoned Marcel Ohmann with his left pad off a semi-breakaway with 2:41 remaining.
"It's always tough when the other team doesn't get too much action, but credit goes to my teammates and how well they played in front of me," Campbell said. "When they needed me to stop pucks, I was there, but fortunately it wasn't too often."
Campbell made 14 saves before Allain replaced him with backup Iles midway through the third and his team holding a commanding four-goal lead. Iles, the only 2011 Entry Draft-eligible player on the U.S. roster, didn't face a single shot in 9:33 of playing time.
"This isn't about individual stats and Jack would be the first to tell you that," Allain said. "It was good for our team that Andy got a chance to get in there and play and get some live action. It'll be better for all of us moving forward."
Defenseman Jonathan Merrill, who along with partner John Ramage
has been exceptional throughout the tournament, gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead at 7:54 of the second on a blast from the middle of the point that soared into the top right corner past a screened German goalie Niklas Treutle.
"Our defense has been stepping up huge," Coyle said. "Our back pressure, our backchecking, everyone is doing it. Everyone is chipping in doing the little things, so that's why we're having so much success right now."
The U.S. welcomed the return of forwards Jeremy Morin
and Brock Nelson
to the lineup after both sat out Tuesday's game with Slovakia with injuries. Forward Jason Zucker
, who took a check to the neck against the Slovaks, missed the game.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale