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Despite losses, U.S. coach likes what he sees

by Adam Kimelman /

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- After watching his players in action in two games Sunday, United States coach Don Lucia started the evaluation process for what could end up as his roster for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

While the final scores didn't go the way he wanted -- USA White lost 4-2 to Sweden and USA Blue was beaten 6-5 in overtime by Finland -- Lucia said there was a lot to like.

"We've had one 45-minute practice, that's it," Lucia said. "We wanted to spend most of the time worrying about evaluating what we have. That's the whole point, especially early in the week before we make some cuts. [Have the players] do the things they did, why they were selected to come here. Let's not worry so much about systems, go play. We gave them a little bit of a structure [and] 5-on-5 they were fine, did a good job. You could see the penalty kill, which we haven't spent any time on, we struggled there, which is no surprise.

"I thought the teams competed hard. I liked a lot of good things what I saw."

Here are a few things that stood out to Lucia after one day of games:

Discipline needs to be improved -- Both U.S. squads learned the hard way how important it is to stay out of the penalty box. USA White handed Sweden nine power plays, and Sweden scored on three of them in its win.

USA Blue's game against Finland swung when Gage Ausmus was called for closing his hand on the puck 25 seconds into overtime and Finland won it 16 seconds later.

"The big lesson of the first game was discipline," Lucia said. "That's something we talked about before the tournament began, that taking penalties is costly at this level and that was sort of the case. We haven't worked on our penalty kill, haven't spent any time doing that, but it was a 2-2 game with five minutes to go and we took three penalties in the last five minutes. That's not a recipe for success.

"It's something you talk about. When you're involved in international play, the penalties are going to be called tightly. That's something we talked about. You can get an accidental penalty when you shoot the puck over the boards, that's going to happen. But too many slashing penalties or high sticks, that's the kind of thing we have to eliminate, the stick penalties."

Offensive players looked good -- The one line Lucia made mention of was the USA Blue trio of Daniel O'Regan between left wing Nicolas Kerdiles and right wing Riley Barber. O'Regan scored two goals and narrowly missed a hat trick, while Kerdiles and Barber each had two assists.

"The line with O'Regan and Kerdiles and Barber I thought was very good today," Lucia said. "That's something we were hoping to see, them generate offense, and they did today."

He also singled out the USA Blue line of center Dominic Toninato with left wing Stefan Matteau and right wing Adam Erne.

"I thought that they did some nice things in the offensive zone, cycling, even though they didn't score," Lucia said. "I thought Matteau, Toninato and Erne did a good job down low cycling the puck and using their size and strengths and creating."

Things look good in goal -- All four goalies in camp got to play about a period and a half each to different levels of success.

For USA White, Jon Gillies started and stopped 14 of 15 shots he faced and Collin Olson made 14 saves on 17 shots. Anthony Stolarz started for USA Blue and made 14 saves on 15 shots and Thatcher Demko made 14 saves on 19 shots.

"I thought all of them made some real good saves," Lucia said. "Some of the guys that have been here before, Stolarz was here last year, and Gillies, you can see that they've got some of that veteran poise, as opposed to Olson and Demko. But I think we have a good group to work with."

One man down -- James Lodge was one of the last players to arrive in Lake Placid, and he'll be the first to leave.

Travel delays kept Lodge, a Winnipeg Jets 2012 third-round draft pick (No. 84), from getting to Lake Placid until about 5 a.m. Sunday, but he was on the ice for practice at 9 a.m. But on his first shift, he sustained an upper-body injury that had him walking around Herb Brooks Arena with his left arm in a sling. Lucia said Lodge will head home Monday and likely will be out of action for a few weeks, but said he didn't believe the injury to be serious.

"I feel bad for the kid," Lucia said. "It took him about 24 hours to get here, he got in at 5 in the morning, played about 20 seconds and got hurt. He lasted one shift [and] he's done for the week. But we told him you're still a candidate. Just because you got hurt now doesn’t mean we're not going to track you in the fall."


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