Well it wasn’t pretty, but the resut is exactly what the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team wanted as it earned a 2-1 victory over Switzerland. Getting off on a positive note was really key for this U.S. squad. Opening the tournament with a hard-earned three points has to be a good feeling, even though I think the U.S. might be a little disappointed in its overall game.
I think there were a number of things effecting Team USA in it’s tough match-up against Switzerland. There may have been a few first-game jitters and I think Switzerland’s overall speed and skill might have surprised the Americans just a bit.
As I mentioned in my previews, the U.S. could expect a tough game and that’s exactly what they got. It was a physical, grind-it-out type contest as predicted. In the end, the U.S. was able to find a way to win.
A big reason for that was John Gibson. The big man between the pipes put in a good effort against Switzerland, stopping 30 shots. The Swiss had several skilled forwards that were keeping Gibson on his toes. Additionally, the U.S. ended up with six penalties to kill, many of which came during a very sloppy second period.
Scoring first ended up being huge for Team USA as it had the early momentum. Ryan Haggerty’s goal got the U.S. that early lead and it came in handy when the U.S. kind of lost its mojo a bit in the second frame.
The Swiss owned much of the second period, with the U.S. still mustering a few good scoring chances in tight. Team Switzerland held a 13-7 shots advantage in the frame and got the tying goal from Dario Simion who scored off the rebound. That gave the Swiss a pretty good spark and put a lot of pressure on Team USA.
The third period seemed to be when the U.S. was taking control and taking advantage of it’s opportunities. Reid Boucher made it 2-1 when he one-timed a feed from J.T. Miller from inside the left faceoff circle a la Steven Stamkos. It was a huge goal and I think it got Team USA its confidence back.
Again, Gibson continued to make the saves he needed to make late in the game and kept things pretty simple as he often does. He didn’t have to be flashy at all. In fact, when Gibson was named player of the game, he couldn’t have looked more non-schalant about the whole thing. Just always on an even keel.
Other standouts tonight included Robbie Russo, who played a lot of minutes on the blueline and picked up an assist, and Connor Murphy, who made several key plays defensively and even had a few quality scoring chances. Those two were go-to guys for Ron Rolston in just about any situation.
I also liked what I saw out of the four under-agers on the team (Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones, Henrik Samuelsson and Nic Kerdiles). I think all four had some of those first-game jitters and made a few mistakes, but really settled in well as the game went on.
Other than that, I think the U.S. squad did enough to win and will hope to be better tomorrow as it will take on a pretty decent Slovakian team. I’ll have a preview of that contest tomorrow morning on USofH.
NEXT GAME: Team USA vs. Slovakia – 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EDT) – LIVE on FASTHockey.com
IN OTHER ACTION:
Russia cruised past Slovakia 8-2 today. It wasn’t pretty. Team Russia looks like a force to be reckoned with right now because I don’t think the Slovakian team was a complete cupcake. Team USA players can’t get caught looking ahead to Russia before it’s game against Slovakia tomorrow, though I’m sure they have it in the back of their minds.
Over in Group B, Finland handled Norway, 5-2, while the Czech Republic pulled off a huge upset over Sweden, 2-1. The Finland result was to be expected, but I don’t think anyone saw the Czechs beating Sweden. It’s a huge win for the Czech Republic, in what is sure to be an insanely tough group to get out of. There’s at least one good team that will find itself playing in the relegation round.
For more news, updates and stats for the IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship, visit IIHF.com.
Be sure to check out all of the Team USA updates on Twitter, Facebook and over at USAHockey.com.
Also, in case you haven’t heard, FASTHockey will be carrying a live video-only feed of every single game at the 2011 IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship. The U.S. games will be the only ones with play-by-play, but if you’re really looking forward to seeing some of the top NHL prospects in the world, you might consider taking in a few non-USA games.
Well, as I said, it’s a tight turnaround. Even for broadcaster/bloggers. Make sure to check back here tomorrow for more updates.