MOSCOW, Russia – Lee Stempniak (West Seneca, N.Y./St. Louis Blues/Dartmouth College) scored twice and captain Chris Clark (South Windsor, Conn./Washington Capitals/Clarkson University) had a goal and an assist to lead the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 5-1 victory over Belarus here tonight in the preliminary-round of the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. Team USA is now 2-0 in the tournament and has clinched a spot in the qualification round, regardless of the outcome of its third and final preliminary-round game Tuesday (May 1) vs. the Czech Republic.
USA 6 - Austria 2USA 5 - Sweden 3
“I thought we played an outstanding game,” said Mike Sullivan, head coach of Team USA. “We had good jump out of the gate and that really put us in a good position.”
Team USA got off to a 2-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. Defenseman Jack Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind./L.A. Kings/University of Michigan) scored 2:40 into the contest when he beat Belarus netminder Andrei Mezin from the side of the left faceoff circle after a nice pass from behind the goal line off the stick of Brandon Bochenski (Blaine, Minn./Boston Bruins/University of North Dakota). Then Stempniak took a feed from Tyler Arnason (Oklahoma City, Okla./Colorado Avalanche/St. Cloud State University) and beat Mezin on the stick side from the right faceoff circle at 4:47 for a 2-0 advantage. Chad LaRose (Fraser, Mich./Carolina Hurricanes) finished the first-period scoring when he went high to the glove side of Mezin at 17:45. Toby Petersen (Minneapolis, Minn./Edmonton Oilers/Colorado College) started the play when he rushed up the right side of the ice and found LaRose in the slot from below the goal line.
The United States scored the only two goals of the second stanza. Clark put one home from out in front at 4:30 off a feed from Paul Stastny (Quebec City, Quebec/Colorado Avalanche/University of Denver) at the half wall. Then Stempniak, with Team USA skating with a two-man advantage, banged home a rebound at the side of the net at 15: 05.
Belarus scored the game’s final goal at 3:31 of the third period when Oleg Antonenko’s shot from between the circles eluded U.S. netminder John Grahame (Denver, Colo./Carolina Hurricanes/Lake Superior State University).
Grahame stopped 20-of-21 shots to earn the victory for Team USA. The United States finished 1-for-7 on the power play, while Belarus was held scoreless in five opportunities with a man advantage.
The United States will tangle with the Czech Republic for first place in Group B Tuesday in the final preliminary-round game for both teams. Opening faceoff is set for 8:15 p.m. (local time)/12:15 p.m. (EDT).
NOTES: Team USA has clinched a spot in the qualification round as a result of its win vs. Belarus. The top three teams from each of the four preliminary-round pools advance to the qualification round . . . The United States has not allowed a power play goal in 12 opponent attempts through the first two games of the IIHF World Championship ... Team USA had a 37-32 edge on faceoffs vs. Belarus ... Paul Stastny, Lee Stempniak, Chris Clark, Brandon Bochenski and Toby Petersen each have at least one point in both of Team USA’s games at the 2007 IIHF World Championship ... Team USA has started 2-0 at the IIHF World Championship in each of the past three years ... All 56 games of the 2007 IIHF World Championship are available live and on-demand at WCSN.com. In addition, select games, including all Team USA contests, are available on DISH Network Pay-Per-View . . . Barry Smith, head coach and director of hockey operations with SKA St. Petersburg of the Russian Elite League, is serving as associate head coach of Team USA, while David Quinn, associate head coach for the Boston University men’s ice hockey team, is serving as assistant coach.