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Special teams, Gillies lead U.S. past Canada at NJEC

Saturday, 08.10.2013 / 6:42 PM / Prospects

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Special teams, Gillies lead U.S. past Canada at NJEC
The United States got improved special teams play and strong goaltending from Jon Gillies to rout Canada 5-1 in their final scrimmage at the NJEC.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- A common theme through the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp has been United States coach Don Lucia's belief that for his team to be successful it needed strong goaltending and strong special teams play.

In his team's final game of the camp Saturday against Canada, he got both, and the result was a 5-1 victory.

The U.S. scored four goals on special teams and got an outstanding effort from goaltender Jon Gillies.

The biggest element in the win was the team's penalty kill, which Lucia admitted wasn't very good early in the camp.

"We were kind of a disaster on the penalty kill earlier in the week," Lucia said. "We felt good that we weren't giving up a lot 5-on-5, but we were giving up three power-play goals a night."

Saturday they erased all nine Canada power plays, and even scored a shorthanded goal.

Lucia said deciding on consistent groupings on the penalty kill allowed the groups to learn Lucia's system and build chemistry, which led to a more consistent effort.

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"I think we all got on the same page at the end of the week," defenseman Patrick Sieloff, one of the team's top penalty killers, told NHL.com. "We focused a lot on video after the first couple games. … Throughout the week that was what we were working on and it was a huge difference, night and day."

"It was good that Don ran us through what he wanted us to do. At the same time, we had a couple units that were clicking. We knew where to be at the right time. The big thing was to talk out there. We weren't talking in the beginning. I don't know what it was, if we weren't comfortable, but by the end of the week it was almost full-on conversations about who goes where and what you do."

Quentin Shore also played a major role in the penalty-kill effort, with his strength on the forecheck leading to one of the more impressive goals of the week here at Herb Brooks Arena.

Midway through the second, with the Americans up 2-0, Riley Barber was sent off for slashing. Canada pushed for a goal to get on the board, but a good clear by Hudson Fasching and tenacious forechecking by Shore allowed him to strip Derrick Pouliot of the puck and rocket a shot past Canada goalie Jake Paterson at 13:57 of the period.

"I just saw Fasching had pretty good possession of the puck and I wanted to get the forecheck started," Shore said. "He rimmed it around and fortunately I got a good bounce off a defender and got into a footrace and got my body around the puck and ripped one by the goalie."

In addition to continuing to help on the penalty kill, Shore showed his versatility by scoring a power-play goal early in the third, getting to the net to bang in an Adam Erne pass through the slot at 5:17.

"The game, when it began, we weren't going to play him on the power play, just use him more on the penalty kill," Lucia said. "He had a good game. … He had the two goals today, made a great play in that little 1-on-1 battle shorthanded to score the goal. He helped himself this week, that's for sure."

Lucia, the coach at the University of Minnesota, has seen a lot of Shore, who had 19 points in 39 games last season as a freshman at the University of Denver. From what he saw last season and this week, Shore appears to be a definite candidate to be part of the team the United States sends to Malmo, Sweden for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"I think he's a guy that can play a little bit of everything," Lucia said. "He can help you on the power play, he can win some faceoffs. He can play power play or kill penalties, help you a little bit on offense or play a defensive role. You have to have guys that are versatile in a tournament like that [WJC] because one injury can change your whole lineup. I have a better feel for him at the end of the week than I did coming in."

Shore and the rest of the penalty killers had to put in a strong effort right from the beginning, as the Americans visited the penalty box twice in the first 6:24 of the game and three times in the first period. But when Canada lost a bit of discipline and took penalties late in the first, it was the U.S. power play that was able to take advantage.

Back-to-back slashing penalties on Canada's Curtis Lazar and Michael Matheson gave the U.S. a 5-on-3 advantage, and Barber made them pay when he one-timed a diagonal pass from Will Butcher past Canada goalie Jake Paterson at 19:00.

With time left on Matheson's penalty, Canada's Bo Horvat was sent off for holding, giving the Americans another two-man advantage. This time the U.S. worked the puck around the outside, and Ian McCoshen finished the play by blasting a one-timer from the right circle.

"We took a lot of penalties here and it's something that has to be different come Christmastime," Canada coach Brent Sutter said. "I think some of those penalties we took today was a focus thing, a mental thing more than anything."

The Americans stayed solid in the second on the PK, despite going to the box twice in the first 3:18. However, that's when Gillies was at his best. First he got a pad on a Horvat attempt from the side of the net, and then made arguably the save of the tournament. Conner Carrick slid to block a Mathew Dumba shot, but instead of smothering it, the puck popped into the air as Gillies was dropping to cover the lower portion of the net. As he was falling back, he used the reach that comes with being 6-foot-5 to glove the fluttering puck as he was falling down.

Not long after, Shore scored shorthanded, and then he made it 4-0 with his power-play goal early in the third. Stefan Matteau made it 5-0 with a goal during 4-on-4 play.

Sam Reinhart, the early leader to be the first pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, scored the lone goal for Canada at 14:03 of the third, taking a Nicolas Petan pass and beating Gillies with a low shot. It was the only one of Canada's 25 shots that got past him.

"Gillies made a couple real good saves when the game was tight, really allowing us to get a lead early in the game," Lucia said. That's what you have to have at this level. You have to have great goaltending."

It also helps to have players like Shore, who can do a little bit of everything.

"I think I can play any role on this team," he said. "Whether it's center, wing, anything -- I just want to contribute to this team any way I can."

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