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| Stepan Watch
Rangers prospects Chris Kreider
, Derek Stepan
and Ryan Bourque
combined for eight points on Tuesday afternoon, as Team USA routed Latvia 12-1 at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to improve to 3-0 at the 2010 World Junior Championships.
Team USA captain Stepan, a 2008 second-round pick who plays at the University of Wisconsin, led the way with two goals and two assists. Kreider, the Rangers' 2009 first-round draft pick who plays at Boston College, had a hat trick, including a penalty-shot goal, while Bourque, a 2009 third-rounder playing in the QMJHL, chipped in an assist.
Tuesday's win over Latvia, the weakest team in the tournament field, marked the second straight game in which all three Rangers prospects cracked the scoresheet. The Americans utterly dominated the game, outshooting Latvia by a remarkable 62-19 margin.
Unbeaten Team USA, chasing its first World Junior gold medal since 2004, will face its toughest challenge to date when round-robin play resumes Thursday night in Saskatoon. The Americans are set to face Canada in a New Year's Eve showdown at 8 p.m. ET.
Canada, which beat Slovakia 8-2 on Tuesday evening, is also unbeaten at the tournament. Thursday's USA-Canada game will be for the Group A title and an automatic berth in the tournament semifinals on Sunday.
Latvia, also routed in earlier games by Slovakia and Canada, was no match for Team USA on Tuesday as the Americans broke out to a 6-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Bourque wasted little time picking up his first point of the afternoon with an assist on Jason Zucker's even-strength goal that gave Team USA a 2-0 lead at 9:40 of the opening period. The Americans had already gone up 1-0 just 2:30 into the game.
Team USA continued its rout when Danny Kristo scored a power-play tally to make it 3-0 at 11:12 of the first. Another Latvian penalty at 13:49 of the first set the stage for a 4-0 lead, as the Americans converted the power play within 51 seconds to go up 4-0.
The rout just kept going as the final minutes of the first period expired. Kreider scored his first goal off assists from fellow 2009 NHL first-round pick Jordan Schroeder and Stepan on a power-play at 19:02 of the opening period, and the Americans stretched the lead to 6-0 with 22 seconds remaining.
Team USA outshot the Latvians 20-6 in the first period to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Kreider picked up his second goal of the game at 9:38 of the middle period, scoring on a power play -- again from Schroeder and Stepan -- to give the Americans a commanding 7-1 lead. The goal came less tha three minutes after Latvia got on the board with its own power play goal, scored during a 5-on-3 advantage with Bourque among the U.S. players in the penalty box. The second period ended with the Americans outshooting Latvia 37-12.
Stepan got his first goal -- and third point -- of the game at 1:22 of the third period, scoring at even strength to make it 8-1. The lead went up to 9-1 at 7:49 of the third.
Stepan's second goal came just over eight minutes after his first. The even-strength goal made it 10-1 at 9:42 of the third.
The Americans closed out the rout with two goals in the game's final two minutes. Kreider completed his hat trick with a penalty-shot goal at 18:46 of the third, and Team USA scored again with only 30 seconds remaining.
In the day's only other World Junior game involving a Rangers prospect, Roman Horak and the Czech Republic team routed Austria 7-1 for its first victory of the tournament. Horak, who scored his first World Junior goal in the Czechs' previous game on Sunday, had two shots on goal against the Austrians on Tuesday.