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WJC 2013: Team USA rolls in tournament opener

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Phil Housley couldn't have drawn it up much better to start the tournament.

The first-time U.S. head coach had seen flashes of brilliance from his team all summer and into last week's national junior team training camp, but he also saw a group of players that would give him many difficult decisions -- beginning with selecting the team.

Housley got a good look at (most of) his final group today as Team USA rolled to an 8-0 win over Germany in its first game of the 2013 World Junior tournament in Ufa, Russia. Eight different U.S. players scored goals in today's game, including three defensemen, and it was the kind of well-rounded effort that Team USA had to begin tournament play with.

The Americans' line of Alex Galchenyuk, Sean Kuraly and Riley Barber were electric all game long, and they got started just 19 seconds into the game.

Not only did Kuraly -- a Dublin native -- win the opening faceoff, he was on the finishing end of a beautiful play started by Blue Jackets draft pick Mike Reilly. Reilly sent a 150-foot stretch pass to the offensive blue line, where Galchenyuk tipped it to Barber who sent Kuraly in home free.

With one slick backhand deke, Kuraly slid the puck between the legs of German goaltender Marvin Cupper for a 1-0 USA lead. Unfortunately for the Germans, it was just the beginning of a long day at the rink.

Jacob Trouba made it a 2-0 lead for the U.S. on a long floater at 8:30 of the first period, and 1:24 later, Galchenyuk scored what might be the prettiest goal in the early stages of the tournament. He took a pass in the high slot and uncorked a lethal snap shot under the crossbar for his second point of the first period.

Barber, Shayne Gostisbehere and Ryan Hartman scored three goals in about eight minutes in the second period as Team USA extended to a 6-0 lead, and that was about where Germany packed it in for the day.

John Gibson started the game for the U.S. and wasn't really tested until a 5-on-3 for Germany, and he was spectacular. Gibson made four or five grade-A saves as the Germans pushed for a goal and proved why he was tabbed as the Americans' No. 1 goaltender for the tournament.

Other notes and observations from today's game:

-- From a Blue Jackets perspective, I thought Reilly had a solid World Junior debut. As I mentioned earlier, he made a terrific pass to set up Team USA's opening goal and he played most of the game alongside top prospect (2013) Seth Jones.

-- Connor Murphy, also of Dublin, played with U.S. captain Jake McCabe in a shutdown/matchup role against the Germans and saw a lot of ice time during a pair of 5-on-3 penalty kills. Murphy got better as the game progressed and McCabe showed off his solid two-way game.

-- If the U.S. wins a medal in this tournament, I have a feeling Galchenyuk will score a big goal to make it happen. Kid's a special player and just dynamite with the puck on his stick.

-- You saw the team speed for Team USA today, but not much of the physicality needed to wear teams down in a short tournament. That will come with time, I presume, but even if they can't throw the body around like a Canada or Russia can, the Americans will give teams fits with their tremendous skating.

-- Johnny Gaudreau's puck skills will be a huge asset to the U.S. side. A very, very talented player who can create scoring chances out of essentially nothing.

-- Next up for the Americans is a match-up tomorrow morning against Russia, which squeaked out a 3-2 overtime win against Slovakia in its opener yesterday. You know the Russians are going to come out raring to go for that game. Should be a fun morning!

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