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Lucia stars, but mixed results for U.S. squads

by Adam Kimelman

LAKE PLACID -- For the first time since arriving in Lake Placid on Friday, the 45 campers invited by USA Hockey to this week's junior evaluation camp got to skate against competition from another country Monday, as the USA Blue team faced Finland and USA White skated against Sweden.

In the opener, USA Blue's Mario Lucia, a 2011 second-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, capped a hat trick with the game-winning goal with 35 seconds left in a 5-4 win. Sean Kuraly had a goal and an assist, and Alex Galchenyuk, the third pick of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, had a goal for USA Blue. John Gibson played the first half of the game, allowing one goal on 11 shots. Jon Gillies replaced him in the second period and stopped six of nine shots.

Juuso Ikonen had a pair of goals for Finland, including the game-tying goal with 4:21 left in the third. Olli Maatta, a Pittsburgh Penguins 2012 first-round pick, also scored for Finland.

In the second game, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Mike Reilly scored the only goal in USA White's 5-1 loss to a Sweden team skating with seven players who won a gold medal at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Garrett Sparks stopped 21 of 23 shots in goal before giving way to Anthony Stolarz, who made 14 saves on 17 shots.

Carolina Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask scored twice for Sweden, and Pontus Aberg, a 2012 seocnd-round pick of the Nashville Predators, had a goal and an assist.

All in all, U.S. coach Phil Housley said he was happy with what he saw in both games, despite not having a lot of practice time and only intrasquad scrimmages Saturday and Sunday.

"I think [USA Blue] did an excellent job moving the puck on the forecheck and had some great transition plays," he said. "They were in a tight game and they found a way to win. That was intriguing to me that they were in a tight game, 3-3, and they found a way to win it in the end. … [USA White], I think they got a little frustrated at times. We had some great pressure, but we got away from the game plan, took some unnecessary penalties. Sweden is an elite team and there is a reason why they won the gold medal last year. But when we did play to our strengths and we did create momentum we were right there in the game."

With three games in three days, Housley said there will be roster cuts Tuesday that will trim the group from 45 to a number he hasn't established yet, but likely will be 28 or 29. Once that's done, Housley and his coaching staff will have just one team to work with, and that's when he'll start implementing some of the systems the team will use at the 2013 World Junior Championship.

"We're going to implement more systems, we're going to introduce some reps on what we're talking about," he said. "They'll get a better understanding once we're doing it out on the ice and we can stop and teach. That's a great time to start doing that. Then work on our special teams. We really haven't had any set power plays, we haven't worked on our power-play breakout, even our [penalty-kill] forecheck and in-zone paly. So there's a lot of things to cover."

Team USA will practice for about 90 minutes Tuesday, then watch Finland face Sweden on Tuesday afternoon. The Americans' next game will be Wednesday against Finland.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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