Buffalo Sabres prospects J.T. Compher (2013, second round), Justin Bailey (2013, second round) and Gustav Possler (2013, fifth round) were in action Sunday as play began at the USA Hockey 2013 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. The weeklong audition features the top under-20 players from the United States, Finland, Sweden and Canada looking to represent their countries at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, from December 26 to January 5.
In the day’s first contest, Compher was unable to score but displayed his insatiable work ethic as USA White was doubled by Sweden 4-2. Lucas Wallmark cashed the game winning goal for Sweden with 4:04 left in the third period, while Andre Burakowsky (WAS), Anton Lindholm and Oskar Sundqvist (PIT) also added markers. Matt Grzelczyk (BOS) and Andrew Copp (WPG) tallied for the Americans.
Compher, whose squad was out shot by a 32-17 margin, fared well at the faceoff circle and showed his strength on the puck as USA White countered the possession-oriented Swedes with an aggressive, physical style on the Olympic-sized sheet. His best scoring opportunity came early on the power play when his one-timer from the left side caught the glove of goaltender Oscar Dansk (CBJ). The feisty forward was whistled for a pair of slashing minors in the opening period, but overall kept his feet moving to finish hits and generate offense while adding value on the power play and penalty killing units.
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On the opposing side, Possler started the game at left wing on Sweden’s top forward line alongside Alexander Wennberg (CBJ) and Sebastian Collberg (MTL). The MODO product couldn’t connect on two power play opportunities in the opening period, but showed his three-zone quickness and ability to rotate into scoring position as Sweden controlled the pace of play. Possler kept his motor running right to the final buzzer, lowering the boom on USA forward Tyler Motte for one of the game’s hardest hits with just under a minute to play.
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In game two, Bailey notched an assist and showed his power forward instincts as USA Blue dropped a 6-5 overtime decision to Finland. The Americans surged to a late lead but couldn’t hold it, allowing the game-tying goal with 11 seconds remaining in regulation. The Finns topped it off with the overtime winner just 41 ticks into the extra frame.
Bailey was active around the net throughout, using his big body and mobility to shield the puck and hit inside seams. The Kitchener Rangers standout recorded his point in the third period by taking the puck off the boards and forcing it low, where Hudson Fasching (LAK) jammed it into the net as USA Blue climbed back to a 4-4 tie. With the offense coming into form, Bailey balanced his effort with smart defensive positioning and a strong backcheck that could earn him longer minutes in front of the USA coaching staff.
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USA will look to avenge the opening day sweep when play resumes Monday. Bailey will get a second chance to impress when USA Blue squares off with Sweden at 1 p.m. ET. USA White battles Finland at 4 p.m. ET. Following the action, USA will cut its camp roster down to one team before Canada joins the mix for another round of games beginning Wednesday.