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Canes Have Big Impact in Team U.S.A Victory

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

The Carolina Hurricanes players representing Team U.S.A. in this year's International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championships got off to a fine start in their first tournament game in Russia.

Winger Erik Cole had a goal and an assist, defenseman Andrew Hutchinson added an assist and goaltender John Grahame had 14 saves for the American team, which easily defeated the underdog Austrian team 6-2 on Friday.

It was the second convincing win in as many games for Team U.S.A., which dispatched Sweden 6-3 in its lone exhibition game on Wednesday.

Cole stood out in a solid all-around team effort for the Americans, as he joined the St. Louis Blues' Lee Stempniak and the Colorado Avalanche's Paul Stastny as the only players to record more than one point.  Cole's goal came on a breakaway only 14 seconds into the third period, when he used his trademark speed to split the Austrian defense before firing a shot over goaltender Reinhard Divis' shoulder.

That was the second such breakdown in as many periods for the Austrians, who also allowed Washington Capitals captain Chris Clark to score seven seconds in to the middle frame.  Austria does not have any current NHL players on its roster.

Hutchinson, who played 41 games for the Hurricanes this season, assisted on Brandon Bochenski's goal in the third period.  Hutchinson last represented the United States as a member of the national under-18 development program.

Grahame wasn't tested too often in goal against the Austrians, who are expected to be in a tough fight to avoid relegation from the 16-team "elite" division of international hockey. There may not have been much he could have done to stop the second Austrian goal, as a centering pass from a bad angle deflected off of an American defenseman and into the net.

Chad LaRose was also heard from, as he came ever so close to joining his teammates on the scoresheet in the second period.  His slap shot from the right circle clanged off the post behind Divis, with the puck eventually landing perilously close to the goal line.  Only a last-ditch clear from the Austrian defense prevented the puck from going in.

Team U.S.A. returns to action Sunday against Belarus, which, besides Austria, is the other relegation candidate from Group B.  Hurricanes players Mike Commodore, Eric Staal, Cam Ward and Justin Williams will be in action for Team Canada on Saturday.
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