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WJC 2013: "Bubble boy" Reilly solid in Team USA win

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The title of this blog post pretty much sums it up: Mike Reilly is firmly on the bubble as decision day approaches for Team USA.

A steady performance today in the U.S.' 3-2 win over Sweden in pre-tournament play should help his cause, but there's a long road ahead before coach Phil Housley and the USA Hockey management team make the final call.

Reilly played 19:06 -- the third-highest total among American defensemen -- and was given plentiful chances to run the point on the power play and be the "transition guy" on the breakout, which is far and away his bread and butter.

Fans that watched today's game saw Reilly's high-end speed and shiftiness with the puck, two things that have earned the trust of Don Lucia, his head coach at the University of Minnesota.

His next challenge is winning over Housley, one of the best American-born hockey players of all-time and a guy Reilly and his teammates grew up idolizing. Team USA plans to take seven defensemen over to Russia for the World Junior, and at the moment, Reilly is among a group of three or four guys vying for the last two spots.

Reilly played most of today's game alongside Patrick Sieloff, a second-round pick (2012) of the Calgary Flames. Both are excellent skaters with Sieloff being the more physical player of the duo, but I thought they were a good pair.

Chris Peters, who runs The United States of Hockey blog (easily the best source of USA Hockey coverage around), was kind enough to share his thoughts on Reilly's performance today:

"I thought Reilly had the type of game that he needed to have coming into today. For me, Reilly has been more on the bubble coming into camp, but that's really only because of the competition among similarly-skilled players (Shayne Gostisbehere and Matt Grzelcyk). Against Sweden, he showed why he deserves serious consideration. He's so creative with the puck and has such terrific speed that it makes him a weapon.

I think he made a few noticeable mistakes with a few turnovers, but far more good plays, even showing off his hands with some shifty moves. To make the team, Reilly has to be an effective contributor offensively without being a defensive liability. I think he showed that in the game against Sweden and strengthened his candidacy.

The U.S. has some incredibly tough decisions ahead of them on defense. Two guys have to get cut and it's about as tough to predict as ever right now."

A brief synopsis of the game: Columbus native (and Ohio AAA Blue Jackets alumnus) Connor Murphy tied the game at 1-1 at 4:51 of the first period with a beauty top-shelf shot on the power play. After a gorgeous set up by Mario Lucia from behind the net, Ryan Hartman cashed in the feed to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead early in the second period.

Rickard Rakell evened things up with a quality snipe late in the second period, a shot that USA goalie Jon Gillies had little chance to stop. Following a scoreless third period, the teams headed to overtime and it was another central Ohio product making an impact.

Sean Kuraly (Dublin native and Miami freshman) won the face-off back to Shayne Gostisbehere, who sent a quick shot past Swedish goalie Niklas Lundstrom at 1:38 of overtime for a 3-2 win.

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