-- While there were no grand goal celebrations or high-fives, the U.S. National Junior Team instead took a businesslike approach on Tuesday in scoring a 12-2 victory over Latvia in the opening game of the relegation round at the 2012 World Junior Championship at Scotiabank Saddledome.
The victory officially spares the U.S. from being relegated and earned them a ticket into the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia.
"Once we got up a few goals, it was kind of anti-climactic, but definitely the guys played with a pace that we wanted to and obviously we were able to spread the scoring around," U.S. coach Dean Blais said. "You want to always win your last game and we've got an opportunity to do that against a good Swiss team [on Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET]. So we have a chance to gain some respectability out of the whole thing after being out of the medal round."
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U.S. forwards Austin Watson
and Nick Bjugstad
each had a hat trick and Jason Zucker
, J.T. Miller
, Bill Arnold
, Adam Clendening
, Kyle Rau
and Austin Czarnik
all had one apiece as the U.S. scored a dozen goals on 58 shots.
"The [Brandon] Saad, Watson and Bjugstad line were good from the drop of the puck until the end of the game," Blais said. "They complemented each other; it's just too bad we didn't get that chemistry going a little bit earlier in the tournament. But that was definitely the best line on the ice."
Watson, who was named Team USA's player of the game, finished the contest with a team-high 7 points, including 4 assists. Bjugstad produced 5 points. Brandon Saad
chipped in with 4 assists for the Americans.
"It was nice playing with Austin Watson
and Brandon Saad
… they are two good players who get you the puck," Bjugstad told NHL.com. "Obviously, it was a little too late to show up offensively, I guess. I would have liked to have done that the past three or four games, but it's good to get a win like this."
Watson's 7-point night equaled the U.S. record for most points in a WJC game. Ted Drury
(2 goals, 5 assists) and Doug Weight
(1 goal, 6 assists) each connected for 7 points in a 19-1 triumph over Norway back in 1991.
"I didn't know that it was a record, but it's an honor to be mentioned with those players," Watson said.
Watson was then asked if he was thinking about gunning for Yevgeni Kuznetsov's tournament-high 9-point total for the Russians against Latvia in a 14-0 victory last Thursday. Kuznetsov finished with 3 goals and 6 assists in the triumph.
"We'd seen that he had 9 points, but going into this game, that wasn't on any of our minds," Watson said. "It wasn't a competition to get the most points out there. We all just wanted to play to the best of our ability and have a good solid team game."
U.S. goalie Jack Campbell
, who made 27 saves in recording his second victory of the tournament, is currently tied with Al Montoya
(2004, 2005) for most victories by a U.S. goalie at the WJC. His victory over Latvia improved his three-year WJC mark to 7-2-1-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) in 13 appearances.
"I watched Jack win a gold medal on TV a couple years ago and I looked up to him," Bjugstad said. "Now I'm playing with him and it's an honor. He's a great player and he's probably one of the best goalies to come out of the USA program, so it's definitely a good honor for him."
Watson, a first-round draft pick (No. 18) of the Nashville Predators
in 2010, notched a natural hat trick in the opening 16:17 of the first before Zucker, the U.S. captain, extended the lead to 4-0 with a shorthanded goal at 18:47. Bjugstad, a first-round pick (No. 19) of the Florida Panthers
in 2010, notched his hat trick in the second when the U.S. scored seven times to open an 11-1 advantage.
"We want to be remembered as a hard working team," Bjugstad said. "We worked hard but feel as though we just didn't get the bounces we really needed to win the tournament. I felt like we really wanted [a medal], but it didn't go our way."
Latvia ended the shutout bid when 2012 draft eligible sniper Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League beat Campbell on the short side off a shot low in the left circle. Latvia's second goal came midway through the third when Teodors Blugers scored from a sharp angle to Campbell's left.
This year, the 10th-place team from the WJC will be relegated to Division I in 2013 and will be replaced by Germany, winner of the Division 1 crown earlier last month. Prior to Tuesday's matchup, the U.S. and Latvia had only met once before in WJC play -- a 12-1 victory by the Americans on Dec. 29, 2009, in Saskatoon, Sask.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale