2017 World Juniors: 5 takeaways from USA’s NYE win over Canada; Woll, Lindgren, Greenway among standouts

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The semi-annual New Year’s Eve nightmare is no more as Team USA earned a 3-1 win over Canada to win Group B and reverse a trend that has derailed some previous American teams at the World Juniors.

Team USA and Canada have met eight times since 1998 on New Year’s Eve, with the U.S. losing each of the last six meetings in what has become a marquee game for the World Juniors. Previous U.S. teams, some really good ones even, have been humbled in this game and it was very difficult for them to recover after losing such an emotional contest. That won’t be a problem for the 2017 squad as the U.S. won their group for the first time since the 2011 World Juniors.

Additionally, in the historical context department, this win helped the U.S. achieve something it had never done previously at the World Juniors. Coupled with last year’s win in the tournament opener over Canada, this is the first time in the history of the WJC that Team USA has beaten Canada in the preliminary round in consecutive years. The victories over Canada in the preliminary round have been so few and far between, this is a positive step for USA Hockey.

It’s also a big win for Bob Motzko and his staff, because I thought they game-planned for this one just about perfectly. The way Team USA defended and how they handled the emotional swings of this game comes with preparation. The players still had to execute, though, and they absolutely did. That was particularly true on special teams.

Team USA got goals from Colin White, Jordan Greenway and Jeremy Bracco, while Joe Woll made 25 saves in the win that ensures them first place in Group B. They’ll await the Switzerland, who finished fourth in Group A, in the quarterfinals. That game is slated for Monday and I believe it will end up being played at 5:30 p.m. ET in Toronto. Hoping for confirmation on that soon.

Here are the key takeaways from the win:

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2017 World Juniors: USA vs. Canada Preview; Can USA break losing trend on New Year’s Eve?

usaiihfcanIn a World Junior Championship that has seen its share of surprises, most probably expected the almost annual New Year’s Eve battle between the U.S. and Canada to come with plenty to play for. With each team coming into the showdown with a 3-0-0-0 record, the top seed in Group B is up for grabs at 3:30 p.m. ET on NHL Network.

With the way both these teams have played to date in this tournament and with how things have been shaking out in Group A, neither is probably overly concerned with seeding. That doesn’t change the fact that both desperately want to win this game. With no guarantee of meeting again, the urgency to get one over on a big rival is surely enticing. It also doesn’t hurt to send a message in this game in the event they do see each other again.

The emotions run so high in this series, but it has only been more recently where the rivalry grew some teeth. Historically, there wasn’t much of a rivalry because the U.S. didn’t have enough talent to compete. That changed in 2004 with USA beating Canada for gold and has been more of a roller coaster ever since.

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2017 World Juniors: 5 takeaways from USA’s 3-2 win over Russia; Parsons, Terry, Keller come up big

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Too much can be made of history in a tournament where the players change almost every year, but the U.S. National Junior Team got a big monkey off USA Hockey’s back with a 3-2 win over Russia. The preliminary-round victory elevated the U.S. to a 3-0-0-0 record and ended a five-game losing streak to Russia that dates back to 2008.

There are so many different things that made this one of the better U.S. victories in recent years at the WJC, but chief among them was the fact that Team USA got contributions from everywhere. On top of that, they were playing a team on a full day’s rest after having to play a game of their own the night before. Tournament schedulers try to avoid that whenever they can, but the U.S. took the challenge head on and put forth their best overall game of the tournament so far.

Goals from Clayton Keller, Colin White and Troy Terry in front of a superb effort by goalie Tyler Parsons propelled the U.S. to the win.

They’ll get a day off before what should be a huge game against rival Canada on New Year’s Eve. Assuming Canada beats Latvia (they will, of course), that Saturday afternoon tilt will be for first place in Group B. Team USA can finish no lower than second place.

So let’s take a deeper look at Team USA’s big 3-2 win over Russia with five key takeaways, stats, highlights and standout performers:

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2017 World Juniors: USA vs. Russia preview; what we should expect to learn

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The U.S. National Junior Team has started the World Junior Championship off right with a pair of wins. That was to be expected with Latvia and Slovakia offering the least resistance to start the tournament. Now the Americans face their toughest test, with an even bigger one looming Saturday.

Team USA meets Russia Thursday (3:30 p.m., NHL Network) in a preliminary-round game that at least has major seeding implications. A win for the U.S. means they can finish no lower in second in Group B regardless of the result against Canada on New Year’s Eve.

More than that, however, Thursday’s game is a chance for this U.S. squad to prove itself against a team that has been one of the most consistent medal threats at the World Juniors. Six straight medals for Russia, with four of them under current head coach Valeri Bragin, shows that they know how to win in this tournament, even if only one of those medals is gold. There’s a lot more than luck going into Russia’s frequent trips to the semifinals.

Russia has been a thorn in the Americans’ side in this tournament for decades, too, but particularly so over the last few years as Team USA enters this contest on a five-game losing streak. Records in previous years may not matter with the high rate of turnover when it comes to players. That said, each of the last three tournaments ending at the hands of Russia has not been by mistake and often feel a little too familiar.

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2017 World Juniors: 5 takeaways from USA’s win over Slovakia; Thompson, Roslovic, Keller shine

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In their second game of the tournament, Team USA looked more like a squad that had settled in. After an easy, but somewhat sloppy win over Latvia, the Americans took the game right to Slovakia and earned a 5-2 win to improve to 2-0 in the tournament.

There was a lot to clean up from that shaky opener, but it looks like the U.S. put the work in to do it. Execution was far better, the pace was faster and the Americans were doing a better job of finishing plays and staying disciplined. They might have taken their foot off the gas in the third period a bit, but overall, it was a superior performance for a team that has its toughest tests ahead of them still.

Team USA got goals from Tanner Laczynski, Colin White, Tage Thompson, Charlie McAvoy and Troy Terry, while getting pretty much the entire lineup involved in the offensive attack, pouring 50 shots on Slovakian goalie Matej Tomek.

Now the U.S. has to get some rest and prepare for an important game against Russia Thursday. Team USA has that unfortunate short turnaround, going from playing at night to going against a well-rested opponent coming off of an off day in the afternoon. The young players are resilient, but that does up the difficulty against an opponent that has had Team USA’s number in this tournament of late.

With a win over Russia, USA would finish no lower than second in Group B, while setting up a chance to win the group against host Canada on New Year’s Eve.

The good news for the Americans is that they’re coming off of a game where they established their game far better than in their first try.

Here are some takeaways, highlights, stats and standout players from Team USA’s big win over Slovakia.

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2017 World Juniors: 5 things to know about USA win over Latvia; White, Keller, Greenway among standouts

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The U.S. opened the World Junior effort with a 6-1 win over Latvia, starting the tournament on the right foot in the standings, but there will be a fair amount to work on before the team gets into the meat of its preliminary round schedule.

Taking advantage of a Latvian team that had quite a bit of defensive discipline, but a lack of precision offensively, the U.S. skill shone through. That said, it was far from a pristine effort, which is more or less to be expected in the tournament’s opening game. It gives the staff some time to make adjustments and for the players to settle in to their surroundings and gel a bit more with their teammates.

I don’t think there was much wrong with the effort or competitiveness of the team, but some of the decisions and Team USA’s inability to establish and set the pace the game needed to be played at were among the concerning takeaways from this one.

You want to start off with a win and avoid any traps, which the U.S. did, but it’s just fair to expect them to play a lot better on Wednesday against Slovakia.

Here are some takeaways and some thoughts on some thoughts on the notable player performances.

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2017 World Juniors: How to watch Team USA; What you need to know

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It’s that special time of year. There’s nothing quite like spending time with family and friends, eating good food, exchanging gifts, relaxing and then quickly hurrying everyone out of your house so you can watch the World Junior Championship.

It all begins Monday with Sweden and Denmark playing the opening game in Montreal at 1 p.m. ET before the U.S. takes on Latvia in its World Junior opener at 3:30.

I’ve already got a primer on the U.S. roster that will be looking to improve on a bronze medal finish last season, but here’s a look at the tournament ahead for Team USA, as well as where to find it on TV.

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