The U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team could have just went through the motions against Germany considering that there was next to nothing to play for. However, the U.S. took it to the tournament hosts and earned a 7-3 victory in front of a boisterous crowd.
Coming up after the jump, a quick recap of Team USA’s win over Germany, some individual player evaluations, Quarterfinals info, tournament notes and more.
It was another great night offensively for the line of J.T. Miller, Rocco Grimaldi and Reid Boucher. Each scored a goal, with Boucher tallying two, and each had a three-point night. Not too shabby.
The U.S. got goals from each forward line. Adam Reid scored for the crash-and-bang fourth line. Tyler Biggs got Team USA’s second scoring unit on the board and Blake Pietila put the shutdown line on the score sheet for the first time in the tournament.
John Gibson remained solid in the net, despite allowing three goals. With Team USA looking at a three-day layoff by gaining the bye to the semifinals, Gibson had to remain sharp out there and he did. He leads the tournament with a 1.84 goals-against average and is second with a .938 save percentage.
It wasn’t a perfect game for the U.S., despite the scoreline. The German team was pretty solid on the power play and gave Team USA some fits at different stages of the game. Playing back-up goalie Philip Lehr proved to be a pretty good idea, as he turned in a pretty gutsy performance despite the outcome. It could have been much, much worse.
All-in-all, it was a good night for the U.S. With a 4-0-0-0 record, Team USA finished pool play undefeated for the first time since 2006. That helps keep that positive momentum going for a U.S. team that is likely to have a very tough semifinal on their hands.
A few highlights:
Reid Boucher has scored at least once in each game and leads Team USA with five goals. He’s also come through in the clutch. The shot on this kid is just nuts. He can wire a puck with the best of them and you’d have to think his draft stock continues to soar.
J.T. Miller has gotten better in every game, it’s looked like. He has points in each of Team USA’s four prelim games and leads the team with eight points (3-5). Additionally, he has brought the physical aspects of his game without taking penalties. If he can continue on this track of playing hard, while producing offense, Miller’s going to be a high draft pick in June.
Adam Reid probably had the hit of the tournament last night. It was clean and it was hard. He also has two goals. Not bad for a guy who’s playing essentially fourth line minutes. Each member of his line has at least one goal in the tournament. Dan Carlson has one and Ryan Haggerty has two. Coach Ron Rolston has been able to roll his lines a little more regularly with the way these guys have stepped up.
Rocco Grimaldi has maintained a high level of production as well. He’s quietly posted seven points (2-5). Grimaldi now has 17 career points (4-13) in IIHF World U18 play. That ranks third all-time for the U.S. Additionally, Grimaldi has won 66% of the draws he’s taken. That’s tops for Team USA and sixth overall at the tournament. He’s won 41 of 63 total faceoffs.
Robbie Russo’s seven points are tied for tops among defensemen in the tournament. Russo has a goal and six assists and has been a big part of Team USA’s offensive output, while also providing sound defense and calm under pressure.
Travis Boyd has made himself a threat for most of this tournament. He’s centering a line of Tyler Biggs and Nic Kerdiles and has been playing well. He has four points (2-2) and has been available in all situations. I think the Olympic ice suits Boyd well. He can skate and has a good skill set. Probably not a bad thing he’ll be playing on a lot of Olympic sheets in the WCHA, including his own home rink at the University of Minnesota.
One bit of a downer, with just over two minutes to play in regulation, Tyler Biggs earned a five-minute major and game disqualification for boarding. I had my head turned when the hit happened, so I didn’t see it live and I’ve only seen one angle of the hit on video. That angle doesn’t make it look too good.
We are currently awaiting word on whether or not there will be supplementary discipline in the form of any kind of suspension. All major penalties are subject to review. I’ll have an update tomorrow on this situation.
Sweden scored four unanswered goals to come back and beat Canada 4-2 Tuesday night to earn the bye out of Group B. Canada will play Germany in the quarterfinal Thursday for the right to take on Team USA in the semifinals. I know everyone is probably licking their chops for a Canada-USA semi, but don’t completely rule out Germany and their home crowd. I’ll have more on this tomorrow.
Finland beat the Czech Republic to earn the final medal-round spot out of Group B. The Finns will take on Russia Thursday, with the winner getting Sweden in the semifinals. Russia blew the doors off of Switzerland, 8-4, to solidify second place in Group A. At least six of the eight goals were of the highlight-reel variety.
Random Tournament Notes:
– Russia’s Nikita Kucherov has a tournament best 15 points, including a tournament high eight goals. The prolific offense he has provided has been unlike anything I’ve seen in three years following this tournament closely. I don’t even know if he’s technically Russia’s best player, but clearly he has a nose for the net. Kind of thrilling to watch (when playing teams not named USA).
– Kucherov’s teammate, Mikhail Grigorenko, a 1994-born center with otherworldly talent, leads the tournament with nine assists and is second with 13 points. The third leading point-getter in the tournament is also a Russian. Nail Yakupov has nine points. What makes this more frightening? All three have been playing on the same line since the second period of the game against the U.S. That’s three players combining for 37 points on the same unit. It is perhaps the most deadly line in tournament history (I’ll have to try to dig through stats to prove it, but they have got to be up there).
– Canada’s Ryan Murphy and Russia’s Albert Yarullin are tied with Robbie Russo with seven points, best among defensemen.
– IIHF.com has comprehensive statistics here. It’s a great resource to track prospects playing in this tournament.
Team USA Stat Leaders:
Points: J.T. Miller — 8
Goals: Reid Boucher — 5
Assists: Robbie Russo — 6
Plus/Minus: Reid Boucher — +5
Shots on Goal: Reid Boucher/Rocco Grimaldi — 21
PIM: Tyler Biggs — 43
John Gibson Statistics:
Record: 4-0-0-0 GAA: 1.84 SV%: .938 SVS: 109
Power Play: 8-for-25 (32%) — Tournament Rank: 3
Penalty Kill: 19-for-22 (86.4%) — Rank: T-1
PIM: 85 — Rank: 2
Goaltending: .939 SV%, 2.00 GAA — Rank: 1
I’ll have a more in-depth look at the Quarterfinals tomorrow. Make sure to check it out and don’t forget that you can watch every game from the tournament on FASTHockey.com. Should be some outstanding games the rest of the way.
RUS-FIN — 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EDT)
CAN-GER — 7:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. EDT)