MYTISCHI, Russia -- May 7, 2007 -- Team USA's run of impressive hockey took a 20-minute sabbatical here on Monday night in its qualifying round matchup with Team Canada. That was all the explosive Canadians needed to skate off with a 6-3 victory. Quarterfinal play begins on Wednesday in Moscow.
Here are a few things noted by these admittedly weary eyes:
Team USA hoped to prevent Team Canada from getting out to a swift start. It didn’t happen. The Americans were a goal down just eight seconds into the contest, and were two goals down just 2:05 into the game. “From our standpoint, we obviously didn’t have the start we wanted," said Team USA coach Mike Sullivan. "We knew that Canada was coming off back-to-back games. We wanted to come out and put pressure on them. Unfortunately they had a strong start and we came out a little bit flat. I think when you spot a team as good as Canada is a few goals early in the game, it’s difficult to get yourself back in the hockey game.”
Both of Mike Cammalleri’s goals for Team Canada showed a finisher’s touch.
Cam Ward was a couple goals better in the Team Canada nets than John Grahame was for Team USA. Ward made a few key saves to keep Team USA from getting as close as two goals, and his teammates answered each American goal with one of their own.
After a rocky first period, Team USA kept its wits and played a very solid final 40 minutes. That’s a good quality to see in such a young team, especially a young team playing without its captain and another key forward (Erik Cole). “I thought our team responded and competed extremely hard in the second two periods, and for that I am proud of the players.”
Sullivan smartly gave some of his youngest players more ice time after the team fell behind early, and they responded well. Erik Johnson, Nate Davis and David Backes were all very noticeable in good ways. Johnson in particular stood out. He moved the puck well and was rewarded with two assists, his first points of the tournament. Johnson’s setup of Lee Stempniak’s goal was done with the precision of a 10-year veteran.
Team Canada’s defensemen were very effective at breaking up passes, getting sticks on shots and deflecting them off target. They were also adept at keeping USA forwards from setting up or getting shots from in front of the net. Most of the Americans’ chances off the rush came from the outside and were harmlessly turned aside. Mike Commodore, Dan Hamhuis, and Shea Weber deserve specific mention for their work in this regard on this night.
One solitary chapeau flew to the ice after Team Canada’s Matthew Lombardi completed his hat trick in the third period.
Brian Pothier played a spirited and effective game on the U.S. backline, especially in the last two periods. That’s the type of leadership a young team and a young defense corps needs.
Team USA's Chad Larose played his usual buzzsaw game from start to finish.
Our Three Stars: 1. Lombardi 2. Cammalleri 3. Commodore