U18WC: USA vs. Slovakia Preview

Rest and recovery was the theme as Team USA poured off the bus for it’s post-game meal last night. A tough battle with Switzerland and a tight turnaround to play Slovakia in the afternoon is a pretty tall order.

Team USA will meet the Slovaks at 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EDT on FASTHockey.com) after having played the nightcap Thursday.

In short tournaments like the IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship, this is the kind of schedule you can expect. So it’s not exactly catching Team USA off guard.

However, now that the rest and recovery portion is covered, let’s take a look at what to watch for in today’s match-up… After the jump.

The U.S. had a bit of a sloppy night against Switzerland, but I don’t think there were too many mistakes made that can’t be fixed by this afternoon. Some ill-advised passes and untimely penalties will have to be wiped out against a Slovakian team hungry for a win after an 8-2 drubbing at the hands of Russia.

The U.S. did get a goal from it’s top scoring line of Reid Boucher, Rocco Grimaldi and J.T. Miller, with Boucher’s game-winner Thursday night. It seemed like Switzerland was making life difficult on this line to the best of their ability and limited a lot of chances. I expect an even more productive outing by this top unit in today’s game.

I haven’t gotten word on who will be in net today, but whether it is Matt McNeely or John Gibson, both can expect a few quality shots today.

Despite the scoreline, Slovakia didn’t look terrible. They have a few forwards that have some high-end skill that can really provide a threat to Team USA. Both of Slovakia’s goals against Russia were high quality. If they get an open look, they probably won’t miss.

Since Russia really jumped on Slovakia early, it was tough to gauge just how good the Slovakian team was on Thursday. They showed some flashes of being a very dangerous offensive team, but I think they have some holes on the back end.

This is another game in which the U.S. should probably be considered the more speedy team, but I think Slovakia has enough skill to match up with Team USA.

The U.S. can’t take this Slovakian team lightly or look ahead to Sunday’s game against Russia. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There is no such thing as an easy game in this tournament. The U.S. will have to be prepared for another battle against a very talented Team Slovakia.

Keys to Victory for Team USA vs. Slovakia:

– Avoid penalty trouble, as it proved costly Thursday night.
– Control the tempo of the game early.
– Play a confident, physical game.

Don’t forget, you can catch this game live on FASTHockey.com at 9:30 a.m. EDT.

About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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