Ah, summer hockey. It’s so wonderful to have high-level hockey back, but as it is summer, it’s not always going to be the prettiest game on earth. That’s probably a good way to describe the early-afternoon game between Sweden and USA Blue at the National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., Monday.
The U.S. got off to a pretty bad start, falling behind 3-0 before answering back halfway through the second period. Team Blue was out-shot 17-6 in the first period in a total out-classing by the Swedes.
The U.S. squad did get better as the game wore on, playing a bit more crisply and eventually turning the momentum to their side in the third period.
The camp will be whittled down by Tuesday into one squad. Those cuts don’t mean anything final, but based on what’s been shown in camp, the decisions on who to keep are the wrong kind of tough.
Scoring Summary Sweden 4 – USA Blue 3
First Period — 1. SWE, Collberg (Possler, Wennberg), 1:38 (pp); 2. SWE, Collberg (Possler, Walmark), 11:12 (pp).
Second Period — 3. SWE, Possler (Collberg), 6:41; 4. USA, Butcher (Matteau, Vail), 10:01; 5. USA, Erne (Carrick, Butcher), 19:16.
Third Period — 6. SWE, Wennberg (Zaar, Djoos), 10:13; 7. USA, Butcher (Hinostroza, Kerdiles), 17:43.
Goalie Summary (saves/shots)
Thatcher Demko (USA) — 20/23
Anthony Stolarz (USA) — 7/8
Marcus Hogberg (SWE) — 23/26
Players of Note
Will Butcher — D — Butcher had a standout performance in the second game after a somewhat rocky showing Sunday. He was a factor in the offensive zone, scoring twice, and didn’t appear to struggle as much in his own end. He has a really quick shot from the point and showed it twice. He is still a bit of a long shot with so many good offensive-minded guys in camp, but he may have earned himself a chance to move on in this camp and get a longer look.
Brady Skjei — D — I thought Skjei was pretty solid for the most part. His skating was especially evident as he did a good job closing gaps, using his feet to get pucks out of trouble and was really strong when he needed to recover. He is starting to jump up into plays a bit more, but is picking his spots a lot better than he has in previous years. He still looks pretty good to get on the final roster.
Connor Carrick — D — I think Carrick had another strong effort after a really good one yesterday. Again, he showed his ability offensively, jumping into the zone and getting a few chances. He has a really good instinct as to when he needs to step into the rush and it helped result in Team USA’s second goal as Adam Erne knocked in Carrick’s rebound. I like his chances of remaining in the mix as a bottom-pairing defenseman with offensive pop.
Vince Hinostroza — F — After looking a little bit overmatched yesterday and even through much of the first period today, Hinostroza appeared to finally put everything together as the game wore on. He was involved in a lot of things offensively in the second and third and kept getting the puck on his stick. I’d like to see him finish off plays better, but he showed good aggressiveness and he had a nice assist on USA’s final goal. I don’t know if he’s got the goods for a World Junior role yet, but he’s a guy I think might need to get some more time in camp just to be sure.
Adam Erne — F — After getting put with Danny O’Regan and Riley Barber today, Erne’s chances for offense increased dramatically from yesterday when he was with Dom Toninato and Stefan Matteau. Having two good playmakers with him helped. Erne showed flashes of his offensive ability, but I still expect him to show off his physical strength more. He has more of a power game than he’s shown in this camp and if he can find it, I think the numbers will increase.
Dom Toninato — F — Toninato hasn’t really done anything flashy in the camp, but he is showing solid two-way ability and was good at the faceoff dot as a center. I think he’s another guy that just needs to figure out the pace and he could be a serviceable player at both ends of the ice. I liked his improvement today and he seemed to get better as the game wore on.
Thatcher Demko — G — This poor kid. He got the start and played really well, but he gave up three of the four goals and I don’t know that he could’ve done much about any of them. He made 15 saves in the first period and the thing I like about Demko is that he makes a lot of saves look easy and he controls the puck well. He got a lot of work today and did well despite getting hung out to dry three times.
Anthony Stolarz — G — I thought Stolarz was better today, but he also only saw eight shots all game. That’s not going to give a lot of great evaluation time. I think he’ll get some more time as the camp wears on, but he did well enough while he was out there and seeing limited work. Though I will say I think his puck-handling needs some work. Got caught in a bad spot once in the game due to his handling.
Justin Bailey — F — Bailey didn’t see much ice time down the stretch and I don’t think he’s going to be making this team. That said, the pieces are evident. He’s got a lot of raw talent and as soon as he can get a few more elements of his game working, he could be a really intriguing prospect. I think another year of development is going to go a long way with this kid.
Stefan Matteau — F — Matteau had to leave the game after taking a high hit from Anton Lindholm, who was ejected from the game. Matteau’s injury came at a really bad time as I think he was finally starting to show glimpses of his ability. Matteau has been very average so far and inconsistent. He hasn’t taken any bad penalties, though, which was a big concern with him. Hopefully the injury is not too serious because I think he needs a longer look in camp.
Odds and Ends
– Justin Bailey, Matt Lane and John Hayden barely saw the ice in the third period, which probably isn’t a good sign. I don’t think defensemen Keaton Thompson or Dylan Blujus were out there at all in the third, either.
– After a great effort yesterday, Danny O’Regan and Riley Barber were only OK today. Both showed flashes of their skills and I think they’re easily through to the next phase, but it just wasn’t as much of a wow factor. The same can be said for Nic Kerdiles, who was moved off the line of O’Regan and Barber (likely just to get another look at some roster structure). Like the others, there were a few instances of really good stuff from Kerdiles, however.
– Nick Ebert has been pretty steady in camp, but not real noticeable. I think that might be OK if USA is looking for him to be more of a shut-down guy, but I don’t know if he’s going to be able to stick with what he’s shown so far. Other defensemen have jumped out both offensively and defensively. We’ll see though, it might be worth keeping him in camp just to see what else he can do. The same can be said for Gage Ausmus, who like Ebert was mostly solid, but just plays a rather simple game making it tough to truly stick out.
– Hudson Fasching had a couple of really good penalty-killing shifts in the third period, but hadn’t really shown up much beyond that. He is showing some improved speed.
— Something to note about the cuts that will come down tomorrow. If a guy gets cut, it doesn’t mean he can’t make the World Junior team. Cuts at this stage are purely to get this camp down to a smaller, more manageable number for evaluation.
Because this is an evaluation camp, USA Hockey may keep players that have only been OK so far in Lake Placid, but that they’re less familiar with. They need to get a better book on them in international play, so that could help a guy stay even if he’s not been the best.
By and large, the players that are getting cut either underperformed or were simply out-performed by another guy at their position. It’s always an interesting dynamic to see who goes and who stays, but it doesn’t always mean the end for certain guys. It’s just a step.
— I’ll have another recap following USA White’s game with Finland.