Hurricanes defenseman Andrew Hutchinson scored for the second straight game while John Grahame was sharp in goal to help Team U.S.A. beat Slovakia 4-2 in the opening game World Championship's qualifying round.
It was a convincing win for the Americans, who rebounded from Tuesday's loss to the Czech Republic, their first of the tournament. Just a day before this game, the Slovakian team narrowly lost to Canada by a 5-4 margin.
"We knew they played the late game last night so it was important to get off to a good start," said Team U.S.A. and Hurricanes goaltender John Grahame. "You always have to believe you can win a medal and we are playing with a lot of confidence right now."
Hutchinson had the Americans' second goal in the first period by blasting a drop pass from Brandon Bochenski past Slovakian goaltender Karol Krizan. The goal gives Hutcinson three points in four games.
Despite being out-shot 18-7 in the first period, Team U.S.A. held a 2-1 lead thanks in part to Grahame, who stopped 29 of 31 shots he faced over the course of the game. While many of the other teams in the tournament have switched goaltenders from game to game, Grahame has played every minute for the U.S. thus far.
The second goal Grahame allowed was on a breakaway from the Minnesota Wild's Marian Gaborik. With an American power play in the third period expiring, Milan Jurcina of the Washington Capitals found Gaborik just as he was exiting the penalty box, surprising the American defense and beating Grahame to make the game 4-2.
That was as close as the Slovakians came to coming back, as the U.S. then cruised to victory, improving their overall record to 3-1-0.
"Grahame did a great job again for us tonight," said Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter. "We capitalized when it counted, and he made the big saves, which is what you need."
Hurricanes Erik Cole and Chad LaRose
were both held pointless by the Slovakians.
Team U.S.A. next plays on Saturday at 8:15 a.m. EDT against Germany, while the Hurricanes on Team Canada will face Belarus on Friday at 12:15 p.m.
For more information, including statistics, standings and photo galleries, check out CarolinaHurricanes.com's World Championship Central