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Schmaltz powers U.S. in World Junior A opener

by Mike G. Morreale

Nick Schmaltz, an "A"-rated prospect on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft, had two goals and two assists to help lead the United States to an 8-3 victory against Russia in its first game at the 2013 World Junior A Challenge, being held at Yarmouth Mariners Centre in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

The U.S., which has won four of the past five tournament titles, outshot the Russians 41-27. Schmaltz, who plays for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League, scored twice in the Americans' five-goal second period as the U.S. opened a 6-1 advantage.

"Great chemistry and our power play was clicking [5-for-9], so that helps," Schmaltz told Tina Comeau of the Yarmouth County Vanguard. "We've got a lot of skill on this team, we're comfortable playing with these players, we've got one line that's been playing together for 100 games. I thought we had a great game."

Zeb Knutson also scored twice for the United States. Buffalo Sabres 2013 second-round pick (No. 38) Connor Hurley had a goal, as did Kyle Connor, Shane Eiserman and Karson Kuhlman.

Eiserman, who plays for the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL, is a "B"-rated prospect on Central Scouting's preliminary list. Kuhlman (Dubuque, USHL) is a "C"-rated prospect. U.S. goalie Calvin Petersen, a fifth-round pick of the Sabres in June, made 25 saves to earn the victory.

"I think the key was that five-minute [penalty] kill [in the first period]," U.S. coach Derek Lalonde said. "Then we turned around and killed two more minutes, so seven straight minutes."

Lalonde was referring to a five-minute major assessed to Matthew Weis (Green Bay, USHL) for checking from behind at 9:40 and then a minor penalty given to Ryan Mantha (Sioux City, USHL) at 14:26.

The United States will face Canada East on Wednesday.

In the other game Tuesday, Canada West improved to 2-0 and secured a spot in the tournament semifinals on Friday with a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic. Jeff Wight, Dylan Hollman, Demico Hannoun and Cameron Hughes all had goals and Jesse Jenks made 29 saves.

Wight, who plays for Merritt in the British Columbia Hockey League, and Hannoun, who plays for Vernon of the BCHL, are listed as "C"-rated prospects on Central Scouting's preliminary list of players in the BCHL.

Jenks, 18, wasn't rated by Central Scouting in October but is eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, who plays for Prince George in the BCHL, has won both games for Canada West. The team defeated Switzerland 4-3 on Monday.


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