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WJC: US pounds Pelss' Latvians 12-2

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
USA 12 vs. LATVIA 2

Calgary, AB - The US guaranteed a win over Canada; it didn't happen as the red, white and blue dropped a 3-2 decision on New Year's Eve, ending competition between Group B counterparts on a sour note.

There was no such pre-game promise made at Scotiabank Saddledome in a morning tilt with the winless Latvians, but it didn't stop a 60-minute throttling, either, as a seven-goal lead through 30 minutes led to an 12-2 US triumph.

Nashville Predators prospect Austin Watson got the ball rolling, scoring a natural hat trick in the opening period as the US leaped out to a commanding 4-0 advantage.

All three were strikingly similar, as Watson platooned in the slot, awaiting the puck's inevitable arrival. At 5:40, he redirected a Jarred Tinordi point shot past the stunned netminder, Kristers Gudlevskis.

He scored another at 11:53; with Jon Merrill dishing at the line, Watson collected a pass near the opposite hash marks, snapping a blocker-side shot to establish his team's 2-0 lead.

And another 4:24 later. With Latvia's Toms Andersons in the box serving a cross-checking minor, Kyle Rau spotted Watson alone in the slot, where he quickly corralled the centering pass and bulleted a shot upstairs to make it a three-goal game.

The rout was on, and it didn't relent.

The US' Jason Zucker scored to make it 4-0 late, and another six tallies were recorded in the second period as the Latvians succumbed to an 11-1 score through 40 minutes.

JT Miller, Kyle Rau, Bill Arnold, Adam Clendening and Nick Bjugstad (3) were the goal-scorers. Combined and on the US' 11 goals, 58 shots were peppered on Gudlevskis and Rihards Cimermanis, who replaced the starter between the pipes (but returned to the bench in the third) once the Americans had amassed a 5-0 lead.

Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss missed Latvia's previous match vs. Switzerland with an undisclosed lower-body injury, but returned to action in today's contest, chipping in with a pair of assists to lead this team.

"I think they beat someone else, but it doesn't matter," Pelss said when asked about what he expected to see in the US' game. "You need to play and not think about who you're playing."

"Our best period was the third and our worst was the second," added Latvia Head Coach Eriks Miluns. "The US is a great team. All the players there are playing in college or major junior, so they're great players and more skilled than us at this point in time. They have a good team and it showed on the scoreboard."

Latvia is still without a win through six games, but will be looking to complete the tournament on a high tomorrow when a head-to-head battle with Denmark is penciled in.

"Tomorrow we'll play hard like it's our last time and that we've got nothing to lose," Pelss explained. "Hopefully we'll win and it will be a good game.

"We beat [Denmark] in an exhibition game, so we feel that we can beat them. It won't be an easy game; it will be a very hard game, so we need good preparation and hopefully luck will be on our side."

Although Latvia has struggled to gain success to this point, pride in the sweater (and country) continues to be a hot point in the squad's locker room.

"Everybody has been trying hard and playing for the team. We're doing everything that we can," said the 19-year-old prospect. "I'm proud of the team."

Miluns couldn't help but agree, especially considering that his team matched the US' output in the third period today; a stepping stone, no doubt, as Latvia's program continues to build.

"I'm proud of the team, especially with how we competed when the game was gone. The boys kept working hard."

- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick   

WJC: Kristians Pelss Post
Oilers prospect Kristians Pelss looks back on his team's 12-2 loss to the USA.
WJC: USA-LAT Photo Gallery
Check out all the photographic action from Tuesday's dominant US win.
WJC: David Musil Post
Oilers prospect David Musil comments on his team's heartbreaking OT loss.


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