A trio of 2013 NHL Draft prospects helped the United States to a 7-1 win against Latvia in Group A play at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Day 4 of the 2013 IIHF World Under-18 Hockey Championship.
Tyler Kelleher scored twice, and Tyler Motte and Hudson Fasching each had a goal and an assist as the U.S. won Sunday, a day after beating the Czech Republic 4-3.
"It's nice to score goals, no question," United States coach Don Granato said. "It helps the kids' confidence quite a bit. The first two games were very tough, very challenging, so [Sunday] was nice to jump out early, to be able to have some breathing room."
The Americans took a 4-0 lead after one period on goals by Kevin Labanc, Kelleher, Michael McCarron and Evan Allen, who scored in the final second of the period.
Latvia captain and 2013 draft prospect Georgs Golovkovs scored the lone goal of the second, but the U.S. came out firing in the third, getting goals from Motte and Fasching 3:53 apart to make it 6-1. Tommy Vannelli's goal closed the scoring in the game's final minute.
Fasching, a 6-foot-1.75, 213-pound right wing, is No. 42 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters available for the 2013 NHL Draft. Motte, a 5-foot-9.25, 190-pound center, is No. 109. Kelleher, a 5-6, 159-pound right wing, didn't make Central Scouting's list, but led the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team with 27 goals and 55 points in 63 games. All of the players on the U.S. roster except for Vannelli are part of the USNTDP.
At 2-1, the U.S. is second to 2-0 Russia in the group, with Finland and the Czech Republic right behind at 1-1. Those teams will face off Monday.
After a day off Monday, the U.S. will close preliminary-round play Tuesday against Finland.
"You want to win every game," Granato said. "We want to make sure we get better as we go. There are areas we can improve on and we want to target those. We'll look at the film, discuss it as a staff, target areas to continue to improve. Obviously we're playing to win against Finland, but it's still about finding ways to get better and better."
Latvia, which has lost its three tournament games by a combined score of 21-1, drops to the relegation round.
"Success for us is to keep our spot in the top group in the world rankings," Latvia coach Vjaceslavs Nazarovs said.
In Group B play Sunday, at Shayba Arena, Sweden improved to 3-0 with a 5-2 win against Slovakia.
Andre Burakovsky, No. 5 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking of European skaters for the 2013 draft, scored twice, while teammates Anton Karlsson, Leon Bristedt and Lucas Wallmark each had a goal and an assist. Robert Hagg, No. 7 on Central Scouting's ranking of European skaters, had a pair of assists.
David Soltes, No. 43 on Central Scouting's ranking of European skaters, scored for Slovakia. Also scoring was Peter Cehlarik, who plays his junior hockey for Lulea in Sweden.
Burakovsky, who had 11 points in 43 games this season with Malmo in the Swedish Allsvenskan, now leads the tournament with four goals, and his five points are tied for the lead.
"I'm very happy about that," Burakovsky said. "I'm a player that should score goals and make assists. I'm just doing my job."
Burakovsky got the game's first goal with 2:59 left in the first period when he scored shorthanded, then made it 2-0 for Sweden with an even-strength goal 5:12 into the second. Sweden scored twice more before the period was over, and led 4-1 after two periods after Soltes scored for Slovakia late in the second.
Slovakia had a chance to get closer during a two minute five-on-three power play, but couldn't convert. Jacob de la Rose was assessed a match penalty for a hit 32 seconds into the third period, and 2:23 later Andreas Borgman was called for interference. Even with two extra attackers, Slovakia couldn't take advantage. Cehlarik scored 6:43 into the third, but that was as close as they would get.
In all, Slovakia went 0-for-6 on the power play.
"We should play smarter," Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said. "We've done a great job killing penalties, but we should be smarter. I'm pretty happy with the team. We played well but we need to be more disciplined. We can't take all the penalties we're taking right now."
Wallmark, No. 17 on Central Scouting's midterm ranking of European skaters, closed the scoring with a power-play goal with 2:58 remaining.
Sweden has a day off Monday and then finishes preliminary-round play against Canada on Tuesday. Canada, 2-0, plays Switzerland on Monday.
"Canada is a very good team," Burakovsky said. "We have to play at our top level. Every guy has to be focused on the game. Canada brings a lot of speed, and speed to the net. We have to be ready from the start."