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Watson's Natural Hat Trick Spurs Team USA to Win

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
USA Hockey News Release used in this story


CALGARY, Alta. -- Austin Watson, the Nashville Predators first round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, scored a natural hat trick and added four assists to help the U.S. National Junior Team past Latvia, 12-2, this afternoon at the Scotiabank Saddledome in the relegation round of the 2012 International Ice Hockey World Junior Championship. Watson added four assists later in the game to finsh with seven points on the afternoon, tying a Team USA  National Junior Team record for most points in a single game, originally set by Ted Drury and Doug Weight in the same game on Jan. 1, 1991.

"I didn't know that it was a record, but it's an honor to be mentioned with those players," Watson told NHL.com. "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."

Team USA took a 1-0 lead five minutes into the first period when Watson redirected a long slap shot from Jarred Tinordi past Latvia goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. Watson scored again six minutes later, lifting a wrist shot over Gudlevskis' blocker from the slot to give the U.S. a two-goal advantage.

Then, with less than four minutes remaining in the frame, Watson completed the natural hat trick with a power-play tally, scoring from the slot once again. Jason Zucker notched a shorthanded goal at 18:47 of the first to give Team USA a 4-0 lead after one.

"I was happy with our effort and intensity," said Dean Blais, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "It was good to see our offense gel today and hopefully that can continue tomorrow."

J.T. Miller and Nick Bjugstad scored goals just 10 seconds apart to push the U.S. advantage to 6-0 in the first minute of the middle frame. Then, following a Latvian goal, Bill Arnold extended the U.S. lead to 7-1 with a backhanded shot the found the upper corner of the net at 5:38.

Team USA added four more goals in the second period, including tallies by Adam Clendening, Kyle Rau and two more by Bjugstad, giving him a hat trick as well. Watson assisted on three of those four goals, bringing his point total to seven.

The teams exchanged goals in the third to close out the scoring, with Austin Czarnik logging Team USA's lone goal of the period. Jack Campbell made 27 saves in the win, while Gudlevskis and Cimermanis combined for 46 saves in a losing effort.

Team USA improved to 2-0-0-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) overall and, with a win against Switzerland tomorrow (Jan. 4) in its final outing of the tournament, would finish in seventh place. The game will start at 5 p.m. EST and be streamed live in the United States on NHL.com.

NOTES: Austin Watson was named Team USA's Player of the Game ... Team USA finished 4-for-9 on the power play, while Latvia was 0-for-3 with the man advantage ... Watson's seven points (3-4) tied the U.S. National Junior Team single-game record set by Ted Drury (2-5) and Doug Weight (1-6) in a 19-1 win over Denmark on Jan. 1, 1991. Other top point efforts for Team USA in the game came from Nick Bjugstad with five (3-2--5) and Brandon Saad (Gibsonia, Pa./Saginaw Spirit) with four (0-4--4) ... Dean Blais, head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is serving as head coach of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team. He is assisted by Scott Sandelin, head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth; Tom Ward, head ice hockey coach of the Shattuck-St. Mary's School's boys' prep team; and Joe Exter, assistant men's ice hockey coach at Ohio State University ... Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is serving as the general manager of Team USA for the third consecutive year. Tim Taylor (Guilford, Conn.), former U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team head coach and longtime Yale University men's ice hockey team head coach, is also serving his third straight year as Team USA's director of player personnel ... The U.S. National Junior Team blog will provide daily updates with game recaps, photos and multimedia content. The blog can be found here ... Use the hashtag #USAWJC to join the conversation on Twitter.

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