LEKSAND, Sweden -- Team USA used outstanding special teams play and solid goaltending on the way to a 6-1 victory over Slovakia today in preliminary-round play at the 31st annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
In what was a must-win game for the United States if it hoped to have a chance to move onto the medal round, Team USA came alive with three power play goals and held Slovakia scoreless on its 10 man-advantage chances. Complete Coverage:
Press ReleaseMedia GuideUSA 5 – SUI 2GER 2 – USA 1 OTCAN 6 – USA 3
"We got an all-around team effort today," said U.S. Head Coach Ron Rolston (Fenton, Mich.). "I'm proud of our guys. We have to get some rest and be ready for Sweden tomorrow."
The United States held a 2-0 advantage after the opening period. Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y./London) wristed a shot from the top of the right circle and past Slovakia netminder Jakub Macek with Team USA on the power play at 6:51 for a 1-0 edge. Captain Taylor Chorney (Hastings, Minn./University of North Dakota) and Jack Skille (Madison, Wis./University of Wisconsin) drew assists on the play. Defenseman Jack Johnson (Ann Arbor, Mich./University of Michigan) made it 2-0 at 14:45 with a delayed penalty on Slovakia in effect. Peter Mueller (Bloomington, Minn./Everett) found Johnson at the side of the left circle and his shot sailed over the glove of Macek. Nate Gerbe (Oxford, Mich./Boston College) also assisted on the play.
Getting his first start of the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship, U.S. netminder Jeff Frazee (Edina, Minn./University of Minnesota) was strong in the opening stanza, including a solid stop off an opening-faceoff two-on-one rush. Frazee also made two big stops in less than a minute midway through the period, first on David Buc and then on Juraj Valach.
Team USA scored two more power play goals in the second period to gain a 4-0 advantage after 40 minutes. Kane had one of the tournament's most spectacular goals at 4:15 as he came from the side wall, stick-handled through traffic and roofed one into the upper corner of the net on the near side from just outside the goal crease. Then at 9:00, defenseman Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn./University of Minnesota) wristed one from the center point that beat Macek and sent him to the bench in favor of Branislav Konrad.
The United States gained a 5-0 lead just 1: 36 into the third period as Konrad inadvertently tipped the puck up over his own shoulder and into his net off an Erik Johnson pass attempt to Mueller. Mueller got credit for the goal despite not touching the puck. Slovakia broke the shutout at 9:46 before James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, N.J./USA Hockey National Team Development Program) finished the scoring at 16:07 when he put home the rebound of a Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon, Mich./Michigan State University) shot from in close. Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn./University of Wisconsin) started the play.
Frazee finished with 28 saves, while Macek and Konrad combined for 23 stops for Slovakia.
Team USA will play its final preliminary-round game tomorrow against Sweden in Leksand. Opening faceoff is set for 11 a.m. (EST) and the game can be heard live on usahockey.com. There is no U.S. television coverage.
NOTES: Team USA must defeat Sweden tomorrow, either in regulation, overtime or a shootout to advance to the medal round. Sweden has already clinched a spot in the medal round ... Patrick Kane, who had two goals and an assist, was named the U.S. Player of the Game ... Nate Gerbe had three assists in tonight's game, while Erik Johnson and Peter Mueller each had a goal and an assist ... Team USA was the home team in tonight's game, giving U.S. Head Coach Ron Rolston the last change for the first time in the tournament ... Team USA wore its blue jerseys ... Team USA had its first lead of the tournament tonight when Patrick Kane's goal at 6:51 of the first period put the U.S. up 1-0 ... The 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship features athletes under the age of 20 on international teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland ... The U.S. National Junior Team is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia ... Eight members of the U.S. National Junior Team are returning from last year's team, including Taylor Chorney (Hastings, Minn./University of North Dakota), Jeff Frazee (Burnsville, Minn./University of Minnesota), Nate Gerbe (Oxford, Mich./Boston College), Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn./University of Minnesota), Jack Johnson (Ann Arbor, Mich./University of Michigan), Brian Lee (Moorhead, Minn./University of North Dakota), Peter Mueller (Bloomington, Minn./Everett) and Jack Skille (Madison, Wis./University of Wisconsin).