2012 WJC: USA vs. Latvia Reviewed; WU17HC: U.S. Advances to Championship Game and More

The U.S. National Junior Team’s offense came alive against Latvia in a 12-2 win. With the victory, Team USA cannot be relegated to Division 1A and will meet Switzerland Wednesday in what becomes a seventh-place game. That game will be available on FASTHockey.com starting at 5 p.m. EST.

Austin Watson posted seven points against Latvia (Photo: Dave Arnold)

Austin Watson scored a natural hat trick in the first period and added four assists for seven points in the contest. Nick Bjugstad also netted a hat trick and picked up two assists, while Brandon Saad had a four-assist day.

The U.S. scored 24 23 goals in games against the tournament’s worst two clubs, in Latvia and Denmark. Great for padding stats, but hardly consoling for U.S. fans that expected an offensive barrage in games not including the tournament’s basement dwellers.

Coming up after the jump, a look at Team USA’s 12-2 win, as well as a recap of the U.S. National Under-17 Team’s 2-1 shootout win over Sweden to advance to the title game at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. There’s also an update on Team USA at the 2012 World Women’s Under-18 Championship, National Collegiate Hockey Conference news and some info on Jack Jablonski, who suffered a serious spinal cord injury Friday in a hockey game.

Team USA’s 12-2 win was what most expected, though as we learned to expect the unexpected earlier in the tournament, there was a little bit of concern when the puck dropped. It didn’t take long for Team USA to jump on Latvia and put the game away early.

All three of Watson’s goals came in close, in an area the U.S. struggled to get to against teams not named Denmark or Latvia. Team USA finally established a consistent net-front presence.

Bjugstad scored a couple of real nice goals and looked to be flying around the ice a little more. One has to wonder if he’s simply getting healthier as the tournament has gone on. The Florida first-rounder never looked even close to the level he’s shown at Minnesota all season. There wasn’t any time where he looked dominant, until Latvia.

Saad’s four-assist day was reminiscent of the excellent offense he provided in the exhibition games. I never thought Saad looked “bad” in the tournament, but he never got involved in the games offensively as you’d expect. I can’t explain why, but again we got a glimpse of what could have been.

Jack Campbell allowed two goals, but made several big saves in different parts of the game, the best of which came against eventual goal-scorer Zemgus Girgensons on a rush. Campbell appeared to be his usual self in between the pipes and certainly was out there competing.

Derek Forbort and Connor Brickley did not dress in the game. Brickley did play sparingly against the Czech Republic and Canada after having his leg cut by a skate in the Denmark game. He probably could have or would have played in a meaningful game, but there was no need to send him out there in a winnable relegation-round game and potentially set him back health-wise before he heads back to Vermont. That’s simply my speculation on Brickley, as I have not received an official update. I have also not gotten a status update on Forbort, who has not played since suffering an apparent lower-body injury against the Czechs.

One interesting note from the game, both of Latvia’s goal scorers today are players that currently play in the United States. Zemgus Girgensons got Latvia’s first tally. He’s currently lighting up the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Teodors Blugers, or Teddy Blueger as he is known at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, scored on a bad-angle shot for Latvia’s second and final goal.

As mentioned, the U.S. will meet Switzerland Tuesday evening. A win there and Team USA can at least say they didn’t tie for the worst finish by a U.S. team ever. That came in 1999 when the U.S. finished in eighth place. A win against the Swiss puts the U.S. in seventh place, a position the U.S. has held in three prior tournaments.

I’ll have a full preview of that game tomorrow on United States of Hockey.

One quick Team USA World Junior link before we move on:

Mike Morreale, who has been providing fantastic coverage for NHL.com from Alberta, spoke with Jim Johannson, Dean Blais and USA Hockey president Ron DeGrigorio about what went wrong for the U.S. Always good to hear it from the people most closely involved. They did not sugarcoat it. I’ll have more thoughts on this later.

U.S. National Under-17 Team Advances to World U17 Challenge Final

It wasn’t an easy road to the 2012 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge final for the U.S. National Under-17 Team, but it managed to get there. Needing a two-goal victory against Canada-Pacific last night, the U.S. pulled out a 4-2 win. Earlier today against Sweden, the U.S. needed a shootout to determine whether or not it would play for the tournament title for the third consecutive year.

In what turned out to be a hard-fought contest, the U.S. came into the third period trailing Sweden, 1-0, after a giving up a shorthanded goal late in the second. Michael McCarron, the big 6-foot-5, 220-pound forward, answered the bell for the U.S. and tied the game just 3:10 into the third. Despite peppering the Swedish netminder, the U.S. couldn’t get the go-ahead goal.

The game was a brilliant goaltender’s duel between Ebbe Siönäs for Sweden and Team USA’s surprise starter Thatcher Demko. Siönäs made eight saves in the overtime period and 38 overall, while Demko stopped 22 shots.

In the end, it was Demko who out-dueled his Swedish counterpart in the shootout, as the American netminder thwarted both of Team Sweden’s shooters. Evan Allen and Anthony Louis, both having outstanding showings at the World U17 Challenge, each put the puck past Siönäs, sending the U.S. to the championship tilt.

Team USA will await the winner of Canada-Ontario and Russia, which begins at 7 p.m. EST tonight.

The U.S. National Under-17 Team will look for its second championship in three years at the World Under-17 Challenge, having won in 2010, and finishing second in 2011. This is one of the toughest tournaments to win, as explained in the tournament preview, and to have made it to the title game is a huge accomplishment.

A complete preview of the title contest will be up Wednesday afternoon right here on USofH.

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In other news…

The U.S. National Women’s Under-18 Team has finished pool play at the 2012 World Women’s Under-18 Championship undefeated after a 13-1 win over the Czech Republic today. Team USA has defeated its three group-stage opponents (Russia, Sweden and Czech Republic) by a combined score of 28-1.

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The newly minted, but still logo-less National Collegiate Hockey Coference will announce its new commissioner Wednesday afternoon in Colorado Springs, Co. Brian Gomez of the Colorado Springs Gazette is reporting that the new boss of the league will be former United States Olympic Committee CEO Jim Scherr. If that is the case, the NCHC has hired a proven administrator who has dealt with every facet of sports business at the USOC.

Scherr is not a hockey guy, but that hardly matters. He knows business first, but will eventually have to prove an understanding and some patience with the ever-changing college hockey landscape. The league will face many growing pains, but Scherr is a proven leader in the sports industry and this could end up being a coup for the fledgling league.

In other NCHC News, Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald tweeted that the league will soon announce a potential 16-game television deal with CBS College Sports Network. It’s a little odd that the league would go ahead and put a TV deal in place before it hires a new commissioner, who’s job it will be to evaluate options and make the big decisions. A TV contract is a big one.

As good as it is to have more hockey on TV, CBS College Sports Network is a premium channel on most cable systems and therefore costs extra.

Hockey East, by taking in Notre Dame, allowed the league to get into Notre Dame’s television deal with basic-cable NBC Sports Network, offering higher visibility.

With the Big Ten Network and NBC Sports Network covering college hockey, the NCHC will have, easily, the third best TV package of the leagues. I just don’t understand making such an important decision without a commissioner in place. Scherr’s the type of guy who might be able to find the league a better deal, as big of a long shot as that may have been.

Jack Jablonski (Photo: BSMhockey.com)

By far, the most important news of any of this, is the story of Jack Jablonski. The 16-year-old sophomore from Benilde-St. Margaret’s in Minnesota was severely injured Friday in a hockey tournament in St. Louis Park, Minn. The injury occurred after Jablonski was hit from behind.

Jablonski now lays in Hennepin County Medical Center with a serious spinal cord injury.

It is not yet known how severe the damage actually is, but the injury could leave Jablonski paralyzed. I plan to devote much more time to this story this week, but for now, I’d point you to the CaringBridge website for Jack Jablonski.

More than 2500 have signed Jablonski’s guestbook expressing their best wishes for the player and his family. The hockey community is a tight one. I’d urge you to send your own positive wishes to Jack and send your positive thoughts to him in this time of uncertainty.

Hockey is a dangerous game, and sometimes we are reminded all too harshly.

I’d like to wish Jack Jablonski and his family all the best during this difficult time. We certainly know he’s tough enough for the difficult road ahead. After all, he’s a hockey player.

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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.
This entry was posted in American Prospects, Junior Hockey, NCAA, NHL, NHL Draft, NTDP, U.S. National Teams, USA Hockey, Women's Hockey, World Junior Championship, Youth Hockey. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 2012 WJC: USA vs. Latvia Reviewed; WU17HC: U.S. Advances to Championship Game and More

  1. Martin Breen says:

    Best Wishes to young Jack. I know my son’s team plans to do something for him.

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