GLENDALE -- It's win or go home starting Thursday for the eight nations still competing at the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.
Four quarterfinal matches are slated, including Team USA vs. Team Finland in Cologne. Three members of the Coyotes - Connor Murphy, Christian Dvorak and Clayton Keller - are expected to play for the Americans, who have won six games in a row since losing their tournament opener nearly two weeks ago.
Keller, 18, is the youngest player in this tournament and will enter Thursday's game with five goals in seven preliminary-round games. Only three others netted more goals in the preliminary round. He also chipped in two assists for seven points - fourth most on Team USA.
"It's been a great experience," Keller said via phone call on Wednesday. "There are a lot of good NHL players on our team and I've been able to learn stuff from them, and it's awesome to represent your country any time that you can. I think I've had a good tournament so far, but the most important games are the next ones coming up."
Keller played the past few games on Team USA's top line with center Jack Eichel and winger Anders Lee. Before those games he played on a line centered by Dvorak.
"It's awesome that Murphy and Dvorak are here, too," Keller said. "I was lucky enough to play with Christian for the first couple of games and we had some good chemistry. I think that will be good for us leading into next year. And 'Murph' has been a real good captain for our team."
Keller is hoping to earn a second gold medal this year. In January, he and his Team USA teammates won the title at the 2017 World Junior Championship. In between his Team USA stints, Keller led Boston University into the NCAA Tournament and then he played three NHL games for the Coyotes. It's been a hectic 12 months for the seventh overall pick in last year's NHL Draft, to say the least.
"Once this tournament is over I'll be able to look back at the year and reflect on everything that I did and all the teams that I played on," Keller said. "It's been a special year so far. I want to end it by winning another gold medal over here."
Team USA has not won a gold medal at this tournament since 1960, 38 years before Keller was born.
"I think we have a real good chance (to win gold)," Keller said. "We're a very fast and skilled team. The first day that we got here we set a goal to win the gold medal and all of us believe in that very much. Having said that, we're just taking it game by game. I think if we do that, and we stick to our game plan and trust in our coaches we'll be fine."
Thursday, May 18
At Cologne, Germany
United States vs. Finland, 7:15 a.m. AZ time; NBC Sports Network
Canada vs. Germany, 11:15 a.m. AZ time; NHL Network
At Paris, France
Russia vs. Czech Republic, 7:15 a.m. AZ time; NHL Network
Switzerland vs. Sweden, 11:15 a.m. AZ time