It might be only the third day of camp, but it was the most critical as the games began for the U.S. split-squads against Finland and Sweden. With the two games today serving as the final evaluation period before first cuts, the games really couldn’t have been more important for the players.
Team USA Blue earned a 4-3 decision over Finland in what turned out to be a fairly exciting (or as exciting as an evaluation game can be) first game of the afternoon, despite some sloppiness.
In the evening game, Sweden steamrolled Team USA White, 5-1. The scoreline is a little deceiving as I don’t think the U.S. squad played terribly. The Swedes showed off some great skill, but the lack of quality chances generated by USA White was a little disappointing. But hey, it’s August.
Coming up after the jump, a full breakdown of USA Blue’s game against Finland, including a scoring recap, the game’s USA lineup and notes on some of the game’s notables.
As mentioned, this was a fairly entertaining hockey game despite the fact that it was full of sloppy penalties, which is really frustrating in a game so important for an evaluation game. Put the whistles away, will ya, refs?
Either way, it was another day of dominance for Sean Kuraly, as he potted a goal and an assist. He now has a camp-best four goals and is tied with Colin Blackwell (2g-4a) for the camp lead with six points.
The real story of the game however was Mario Lucia, who netted a hat trick including the game-winning goal with just 35 seconds remaining in a tie hockey game. The GWG was an absolute snipe from high between the faceoff circles. On a 3-on-2, Lucia elected to shoot and the quick release on the shot stunned the Finnish netminder, who never had a chance anyway.
Alex Galchenyuk had the other goal, coming off a rebound of a John Gaudreau shot. It was a bit of redemption for Galchenyuk who did not look good for the first two periods, but more on that in a bit. In addition to the goal, Galchenyuk also chipped a tooth thanks to an errant stick… photographic evidence via @AGally94.
John Gibson gave up one goal early, but settled in really well and made a series of great saves on a penalty kill in the second period. He looked the best of the four goalies today, but that’s how it’s supposed to be for the returning netminder.
Here’s a look at the lineup Team USA Blue started with against Finland:
John Gaudreau – Alex Galchenyuk – Colin Blackwell
Mario Lucia – Sean Kuraly – Noesen
Nic Kerdiles – Thomas Di Pauli – Brian Hart
Adam Reid – Steven Fogarty – Henrik Samuelsson
Garret Haar – Jacob Trouba John Gibson
Brady Skjei – Shayne Gostisbehere Jon Gillies
Jordan Schmaltz – Michael Paliotta
Patrick Sieloff – Connor Carrick
Sean Kuraly — For the first two periods, I don’t think there was any question Kuraly was the best forward on the ice. He was creating chances with his size and speed and showed really good hands. He set up Lucia’s first goal by driving hard to the net and Lucia was able to drive home Kuraly’s rebound. I knew Kuraly was a good forward, but he looked better than any previous viewing as he’s put together a lot of his tools. His spot in camp is secure, and he’s made a statement in Lake Placid that he belongs in Ufa.
Mario Lucia — The hat trick is a good indication of how Lucia played. He still needs to work on his D-zone play, but the way his offense was clicking, his deficiency on D is easy to overlook. On his second goal, Lucia converted from distance on a rebound chance, but the third was the jaw dropper. He bore down right up the center of the ice with options on either side on the 3-on-2, but made the wise decision to use that nasty release. Lucia has good enough size and speed. He’ll need to adjust to the pace just a hair better, but he’s also made a strong statement in camp.
Shayne Gostisbehere — I thought for much of the game, despite having guys like Jacob Trouba and Brady Skjei there drawing attention, Gostisbehere might have been the most noticeable defenseman. His size never seemed like an issue, and a lot of that has to do with his smarts, puck skills and speed. He’s more explosive than I thought and was able to do a little bit of everything. Gostisbehere was more than adequate defensively, showing off a good stick and engaging physically. There are so many good defensemen in camp, but he’d be tough to cut.
John Gibson — The World Junior veteran looked every bit like one. He gave up just one goal in nearly 32 minutes, making 10 saves along the way. The thing about Gibson is that he looks the part. He showed confidence in the net and never once looked out of sorts. That type of confidence gives the team in front of him confidence. He is sound positionally, challenged shooters well and was really moving well in the net. Gibson was, without a doubt, the best goaltender Monday.
Adam Reid — The biggest surprise of the day for me was this undrafted Northeastern forward. Reid is a big forward who plays physically. He was able to play really strong defensively against a highly-skilled group of Finnish forwards. Reid’s skating has vastly improved from his U18 days and he showed good speed in all zones. There’s a chance Reid played well enough in that defensive role to stay in camp.
Stefan Noesen — Noesen had a pair of assists playing on Team USA Blue’s most effective line with Kuraly and Lucia. He skates so well and plays tough. His best play included dropping a pass to Sieloff and kept his feet moving to draw a defender, leaving Lucia wide open to get the rebound and score. He just knows how to play the game. Don’t see any way he’s getting cut.
Alex Galchenyuk — The third overall pick from the most recent draft still looks like he’s shaking off the rust from missing most of last season. He showed flashes of that immense skill of his and certainly looked like he got stronger as the game went on. He might be a bit underwhelming so far, but I think he’d only get better with each day in camp as he continues to make that adjustment.
Colin Blackwell — With six points in camp, the diminutive winger has made his presence known. He’s fast, has good vision and makes the right reads often. The size is definitely an issue, especially with other small guys looking for spots in John Gaudreau and Rocco Grimaldi (who would be in camp if not recovering from injury). I think they’ll give him more time in Lake Placid to state his case.
Jacob Trouba — I don’t know if Trouba had the day he wanted today, but it was a pretty fair showing for the Jets first-rounder. He’s a really gifted skater, played the body with frequency and limited mistakes with the puck. He’s pretty much a lock anyway.
John Gaudreau — Playing with Alex Galchenyuk for the third straight game, Gaudreau showed flashes of skill and made some good plays. He got on the scoresheet with an assist. Despite the lack of consistent effectiveness in camp, I think Gaudreau remains in camp and is still a favorite for a top-six role on the final team.