Editor’s note: Wednesday afternoon, I’ll post my projected 2012 U.S. National Junior Team final roster. The official announcement comes down from USA Hockey Thursday morning, so I’ll share who I think will be on that list. Tough decisions to be made for sure.
A roster made up of 22 candidates for the U.S. National Junior Team lost to Russia Tuesday night, 6-3. Despite out-shooting the defending World Junior champs, 37-26, the U.S. couldn’t get the puck past 1994-born goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy enough.
Jack Campbell took the loss in net for the U.S., allowing five goals on 25 shots. Not the start you hope for, but knowing that Campbell tends to particularly shine when the lights are bright, there’s not a ton of cause for concern.
J.T. Miller scored an unassisted shorthanded goal, and added an assist to pace the American outfit. Josh Archibald scored Team USA’s first goal, while Kenny Agostino scored the third. Miller, Connor Brickley, Austin Watson and Jacob Trouba each had assists in the game.
Special teams often suffer in these early exhibition games, and that was certainly the case for Team USA. Russia went 2-for-4 on the power play, while the U.S. couldn’t muster a goal with the man-advantage in six attempts.
“While we’re disappointed with the loss, this is just a step in our evaluation process,” said Dean Blais, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team, in a team release. “We will continue to work to prepare for the tournament, beginning with tomorrow’s exhibition game against Switzerland.”
Thoughts after the jump…
It is important to remember what Blais says. The Russia game was merely a step in the evaluation process. The U.S. will get one exhibition game with its full roster on Dec. 23. That’s when you can hope to see improvement. Sometimes there’s a lot more left to evaluate in a loss than a win.
What the game does now is give Blais and his staff a really solid measuring stick. They probably spent a few hours after the game going over video and chatting about who they need to get another look at in tonight’s exhibition against Switzerland and who they’ve got enough info on.
Team USA’s final cuts will be made after the Switzerland game, with the official roster set to be announced Thursday morning on USAHockey.com.
To get a bit more of a detailed look at last night’s action, you can check out USA Hockey’s live blog from the USA-Russia contest. The Edmonton Sun also has a comprehensive look at the game with a bunch of quotes from the USA players.
Here was Team USA’s lineup to start the game:
Jason Zucker – Charlie Coyle – Emerson Etem
Shane Prince – Austin Czarnik – Brian Ferlin
Connor Brickley – Austin Watson – Josh Archibald
Kenny Agostino – Bill Arnold – J.T. Miller
Austin Levi – Jacob Trouba
Derek Forbort – Stephen Johns
Jon Merrill – Seth Jones
Jack Campbell – John Gibson
Scratches: Nick Bjugstad, Kyle Rau, T.J. Tynan, Brandon Saad — Jarred Tinordi, Kevin Gravel
Don’t pay too much attention to the order of the lines or the combinations. They will obviously change as cuts are made.
I got a bunch of questions about the scratches on Twitter last night, and my response was pretty much the same: There are 28 players in camp, they can only play 22 on a given night and not to read into the scratches. If nothing else, it’s a good thing to be scratched in the first exhibition (in my mind). I’d expect all of Tuesday’s scratches to get in tonight against Switzerland, with the exception of Bjugstad. More to come on Bjugstad in a bit.
While I tried not to pay too much attention to the line combose, two really stuck out to me. The most intriguing lines listed by Team USA was the Zucker-Etem-Coyle line and the Brickley-Watson-Archibald group. Those two, on paper, look like they could be actual lines on this team.
The Zucker-Etem-Coyle trio seems to be a legitimate top line contender with the speed and scoring. I somewhat expected Brickley and Watson to end up together on what could be safely be called an energy line. The reports I’ve gotten about Archibald lead me to believe he’ll make a legitmate push for a spot on this team. He has good wheels and has some grit to his game. Keep an eye on these two combos.
The D pairings feel pretty interchangeable, and I wasn’t expecting to get too much info about them tonight. However, the one pair that stood out to me was Jon Merrill with Seth Jones. I could easily see that in the tourney. However, there is some doubt surrounding Jones now after an apparent injury last night. More on that shortly.
The U.S. will get another evaluation night tonight, though I’m guessing the staff has a pretty good idea who’s in and who’s out by now, with six competitive practices and one exhibition game in the books. There are probably only a few spots that are still up for grabs.
It’ll be interesting to see which of the perceived “bubble” players will be in the lineup tonight for one last shot. I’d imagine the U.S. will sit the more rock-steady guys tomorrow in the interest of evaluation.
Injury Update: Bjugstad Update, Jones Hurt in Exhibition
The injury bug bit Team USA last night as Craig Button of TSN tweeted the following:
Russia-USA update. USA’s Seth Jones took a big blow into boards, driving to net in 2nd period and did not return to play.
A short time later, Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald tweeted this:
Amreican (sic) defender Seth Jones was wearing a sling post-game. Not good. One of the team’s top defenders.
As of this writing, there was no update on Jones’ status. Working on getting the latest, but this is not what you hope to see for such a promising young player who would likely have a chance to make an impact this year. That he was reportedly in a sling is concerning. It means it’s more than just a little bump.
This could be bad news for Team USA. As soon as I know the latest from one of my sources, you will.
The latest news on Nick Bjugstad is positive, however. Roman Augustovitz, Minnesota hockey beat writer for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, caught up with the big center to get to the bottom of his injury situation.
Bjugstad had this to say to Augustovitz:
“It’s nothing really serious,” Bjugstad said on Monday when asked about his injury. “It’s day-to-day. I’ll play in the third exhibition game and definitely be ready for the 26th.”
So, based on what Bjugstad says, it sounds like it’s all good. I tend to take what players say about injuries with a grain of salt. Of course the kid is going to believe he’s going to play no matter how bad the injury is.
Also revealed in the article is that Bjugstad acquired the undisclosed injury Dec. 9. If he doesn’t play until Dec. 23, that’s a full two weeks to heal.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while USA Hockey plans to announce its final roster Dec. 22, the team doesn’t have to submit its final roster until the night before the tournament. Should anything change between Dec. 23 and 25, they could make another move if they had to.
So while it would appear that Bjugstad will be good to go, it’s never a bad idea to err on the side of caution and see how it plays out over the next two days. Clearly, the U.S. is a better team with him in the lineup.
Dave Arnold, whose wonderful pictures have been accompanying my recent posts, has 200 photos from last night’s USA-Russia game posted on DaveArnoldPhotography.com.
Kevin Allen of USA Today takes a look at who could help fill the void left by Justin Faulk.
The Sleeping Giant with its hilarious take on Justin Faulk being “held captive” by the Hurricanes.
Ryan Kennedy, of The Hockey News, includes USA hopeful Brian Ferlin in his weekly Hot List, as well as a potential future U.S. World Junior candidate, Nic Kerdiles.
Want tickets to the USA-Canada game on New Year’s Eve in Edmonton? You’ll have to pay. A lot.
The Calgary Herald takes a look at Team USA’s exhibition opponent tonight, Team Switzerland.
Bruce Peter, of Puck Worlds, is previewing each team at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. Here’s his detailed look at Team USA’s first Group B opponent, Denmark, and Group A’s, Slovakia and Sweden. Be sure to follow Bruce’s unique coverage of this tournament.
The Pipeline Show has a look at Latvia, featuring USHL sensation Zemgus Girgensons
Neate Sager takes a look at the sure-to-be overplayed storylines for each of Canada’s 22 players at Buzzing the Net.
Coming up later today, my projected roster for the U.S. National Junior Team. So come on back now, ya hear?