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Returning U.S. players on quest for redemption

Thursday, 08.09.2012 / 8:57 PM / Prospects

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Returning U.S. players on quest for redemption
After a disappointing showing at last year's World Junior Championships, players looking to make the US entry again are ready to to start anew.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- They're not ready to call it Team Redemption, but for three members of the U.S. squad that finished seventh at the 2012 World Junior Championship, that's the approach they've brought to this week's USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp.

Forward J.T. Miller, defenseman Jacob Trouba and goaltender John Gibson all went to Alberta last year and came away with emotional scars caused by going 1-3 in the preliminary round to end up in the relegation pool.

"There were things that none of us have forgotten that happened," Trouba told NHL.com. "I think about it all the time and it [stinks]. It's about getting redemption and having another crack at it."

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The trio worked out some of those frustrations Thursday in a 10-2 rout of Sweden, the team that won the 2012 WJC gold medal.

Shayne Gostisbehere had a pair of goals and an assist in the win. John Gaudreau, Tyler Biggs and Alex Galchenyuk each had a goal and an assist, and Mike Reilly had a pair of assists.

The three returnees also played major roles. Miller, a 2011 first-round pick of the New York Rangers, had a power-play goal and an assist. Trouba, taken by the Winnipeg Jets with the ninth pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, had a goal and an assist. And Gibson, a 2011 second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, made 35 saves, a number of them highlight-reel plays. Among those were a strong glove stop with 2:20 left in the first period with the game tied 1-1, and a spectacular, lunging glove save to deny William Karlsson on a shorthanded attempt midway through the second.

Mika Zibanejad, who had the overtime goal in the 2012 gold-medal game, and Joachim Nermark scored for Sweden, which was playing for the first time since it defeated Finland 8-2 on Tuesday.

A win in August against the defending tournament champion won't change what happened last year in Alberta, but it certainly left a good feeling in the minds of the U.S. players who went through the tough times.

"That was huge for the team, especially coming off a 5-1 loss to them the other night [Monday's split-squad game]," Miller told NHL.com. "That's just so big for us. Felt great. It gave guys a taste of how good it feels to win like that, especially against the defending champs."

The good feelings the U.S. team left the rink with Thursday stand in stark contrast to the feelings of anger, disappointment and embarrassment they felt leaving Alberta.

The returning trio believe that reservoir of bad feelings can serve as a motivating factor for them to raise the level of play for this year's WJC tournament, which starts Dec. 26 in Ufa, Russia.

"I think that [anger] can only help the drive for our team," Miller said. "We've always been known as a hard-working team that can push through adversity. We want to make sure we use our anger toward the good, not the bad."

There was far more bad last year. After opening with an 11-3 blowout of Denmark, the United States -- with Gibson in net -- lost 4-1 to Finland. They next fell 5-2 to the Czech Republic and capped the preliminary round with a 3-2 loss to Canada.

Losing to a Canada team that went on to win the bronze medal and is an annual power is nothing to be ashamed of. It's the losses to Finland and the Czech Republic that draw most of their ire.

Miller said the lesson he learned from last year is not to dismiss any opponent.

"I think you can't take anything for granted," he said. "Losing to the Czechs and Finns, those two games we took as consideration to be wins. We have to make sure we take one game at a time and not overlook any competition."

The three returning players arrived in Lake Placid for this year's camp a year older and with a more veteran outlook. Team USA general manager Jim Johannson believes that can raise the level of all the players that make the team.

Jacob Trouba was part of a USA team that went a disappointed 1-3 at the 2012 World Junior Championship. This year, he and teammates are out for redemption. (Photo: Getty Images)

"I think they're more mature players and there's a little more polish to their games on the ice," Johansson told NHL.com. "I think they come into the camp and know that this is part of the building block, and I think in some cases they're trying to be part of that building block."

Trouba certainly is looking forward to being a big part of the 2013 WJC team. He had two assists in six games last year and is expected to be one of the team's top defensemen this year. The captain of last season's United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team will be under consideration to be named captain of the WJC squad.

"He's got that characteristic," Johansson said. "He's an extremely competitive kid, he plays hard, he backs it up on the ice. There's certain traits players have and he has all the traits of what you want in a captain: big, fast, physical, hard to play against, has an edge to his game. He has all those attributes that make up good captains in most cases."

Trouba said he wants to have a role in the leadership of the team.

"That's something I feel like I can do," he said. "I've tried to be a little more vocal, leading by example. I'm trying to do it because it's something I think this team kind of needs."

They didn't need a huge contribution on the ice Thursday, because the rest of the team raised its collective level.

After Gostisbehere and Zibanejad traded power-play goals, Gaudreau finished a rush up-ice by Reilly to put the Americans ahead 2-1 with 55.9 seconds left in the first period.

The second period was all Team USA as they scored six times, including four in the first 6:43 to blow the game open.

Vincent Trocheck and Galchenyuk scored 21 seconds apart in the first two minutes of the second, then Gostisbehere and Nicolas Kerdiles scored 24 seconds apart to make it 6-1. Biggs scored at 15:16 to make it 7-1, and Miller's power-play goal with 1:32 left in the period made it 8-1.

Nermark scored 59 seconds into the third, but the United States closed the scoring with goals by Trouba and Sean Kuraly, his sixth of the camp with 40.5 seconds left.

"We knew were playing against a very talented Sweden team," U.S. coach Phil Housley said. "I don't think the score was any indication of how we thought the outcome was going to be. Give credit to our guys. They stuck to a team game."

Trouba said a blowout of the defending champs in August is nice, but the three players who went through the tough times last year know they won't be able to fully get past what happened until they have success at the World Juniors.

"I know we were pretty embarrassed," Gibson told NHL.com. "USA hasn't been to the relegation round in quite a few years. We were angry at ourselves. We had high hopes and high expectations and we fell under pressure. Me, Jake and J.T. are thankful we'll hopefully get another chance."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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