As expected, there won’ be any changes from the U.S. National Junior Team lineup from Wednesday’s big 7-0 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals besides Shayne Gostisbehere being reinserted to the lineup.
The U.S. had one of it’s most complete games Wednesday and the U.S. was clicking better than in any game previous. It appears after many tweaks here and there, Phil Housley has a lineup he can rely on.
There’s balanced scoring, with a potential goal threat on every line and the D pairs have more balance in terms of offensive ability vs. shut-down capabilities.
Today offers the U.S. easily its most challenging game, with Canada even improved since last time the two clubs met in the tournament. It’s going to be a tight, physical battle where it could be a matter of getting bounces. Regardless, it’s going to be a great hockey game.
Coming up after the jump, Team USA’s line combos and D pairings with notes on each.
13 Johnny Gaudreau – 10 J.T. Miller – 26 Jim Vesey
This line seems to have awoken since Jim Vesey joined it. Gaudreau and Miller are both getting more chances and clicking better offensively with the Harvard freshman. Gaudreau and Miller play with Vince Trocheck on the power play and that unit has been just deadly so far. This is an important line to get going for the U.S. against Canada. Gaudreau has five goals in his last two games, while Miller has five points. It’s one line the Canadians didn’t get a chance to see in the first game, so we’ll see if that has any impact on this group’s effectiveness.
15 Alex Galchenyuk – 7 Sean Kuraly – 16 Riley Barber
This line has received really guarded minutes over the last several games and unless the U.S. finds itself behind early or trailing a lot, that could be the same story today. Galchenyuk is Team USA’s most consistent offensive threat, so getting this trio more ice is going to be important in what should be a fairly close game. The big thing the U.S. can do for this group is to stay out of the box. None of these guys are on the PK, so the more time in the box means less of this line. Barber had two goals against the Czechs and looked most effective since the first game of the tournament. Kuraly has shown the ability to keep this line moving, while playing a good two-way game.
20 Blake Pietila – 18 Cole Bardreau – 21 Ryan Hartman
The Grind Line was excellent against the Czech Republic, shutting down its top offensive unit. This trio will have a much tougher assignment today. Expect big minutes for this group against Canada’s top line of Jonathan Drouin, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mark Scheifele. Limiting what that line can do offensively, while getting after the defensemen with a good forecheck will be top priorities for this group, which has been together all tournament. Any offense out of them today will be an added bonus.
23 Rocco Grimaldi – 25 Vince Trocheck – 22 Tyler Biggs
After Grimaldi joined this line for the quarterfinal, this group became instantly more threatening. Playing more of an energy-line kind of role, being solid defensively while trying to get the puck up ice, this group was very good against the Czechs. Despite not getting on the scoresheet, these three were getting good chances. Biggs will have to be physical, but smartly so, as this game should have more hitting. Grimaldi needs to keep clicking with this group and making thing tough on opponents with his speed. Trocheck just has to keep doing what he’s been doing with his offensive skill and sound defensive awareness.
12 Mario Lucia
Lucia didn’t see the ice in the last game for Team USA, so it’s unclear how he’ll be used today. He has enough offensive ability where the U.S. can plop him on a line to try and spark something if need be, but the way the forwards played Wednesday, he might have a tough time getting the ice.
19 Jake McCabe – 3 Seth Jones
This pair should see a lot of ice together against Canada. Jones had a bad period against the Canadians last game, but was rock solid the rest of the way after McCabe joined him. Expect a much more consistent effort out of these two today. They can shut down opposing lines and jump into the play offensively. They’ll be focused on limiting chances, especially early.
27 Patrick Sieloff – 8 Jacob Trouba
If today will be more physical, this is the perfect pairing for it. Both Sieloff and Trouba like to get after it with the body checking and will do a lot to match Canada’s muscle up front. Trouba has been the tournament’s best defenseman, while Sieloff has seized the opportunity for more ice time. These guys were a big part of last year’s U18 gold-medal defense that allowed just four goals in six games. They know each other well and should thrive on the same pairing. In more offensive situations, Shayne Gostisbehere could jump up with Trouba at times.
6 Mike Reilly – 5 Connor Murphy
Reilly has been playing better in the lower-pressure role on a bottom-two pairing. He has a very responsible D partner in Murphy, which allows Reilly to go out and create a little bit and jump into plays. These guys will give the U.S. good depth on the blue line, but the top two pairings should see a lot more of the ice. Look for this pair to try and take advantage when Canada’s bottom lines are out.
14 Shayne Gostisbehere
After sitting out last game with the suspension, Gostisbehere likely lost his spot in the top four for today. That doesn’t mean he won’t see some important shifts over the course of the game. He and Trouba made up Team USA’s most effective D pairing for the first half of the tournament. Gostisbehere can effect the game with his vision and speed, so he won’t be riding the pine, more than likely.
35 John Gibson
30 Jon Gillies
Scratched: Garret Sparks
The U.S. will lean heavily on its big goaltender to keep them in this one and give them a chance late. Gibson has been the tournament’s best goaltender statistically and he’s coming off a nice shutout against the Czechs. The Pittsburgh native has really settled things down for the U.S. even in the two losses. As long as he gets scoring support today, he’ll be the biggest difference maker for Team USA.
Here’s the official lineup for both teams via the IIHF.
Be sure to come back after the game for complete analysis of this great semifinal match-up. You can also follow along on Twitter, where I’ll have live in-game analysis. Enjoy the game, everyone.