Even though they make it look easy, it hasn’t been that way for Team USA so far in this tournament. They improved to 3-0 in the round robin with a shutout win over Germany. It was a dominant victory for a team that had appeared to still be searching for some chemistry and consistency in previous games.
The story of the game was the power play. The US took a couple of early penalties, even yielding a 5v3 PP opportunity but Germany was subsequently unable to score with the man advantage. Just over a minute into the game, Nick Kerdiles took a hooking call; 24 seconds later, Hudson Fasching went to the box to serve a Too Many Men penalty. On the ensuing 5v3 power play, Germany got a few good looks at the net but the USA’s excellent PK was up to the challenge, as was Anthony Stolarz who denied all of Germany’s attempts. The US got a power play of their own a short time later but failed to do much with it. That didn’t matter much as Fasching opened the scoring with a squeaky goal that he managed to slide between German goalie Patrick Klein’s pads. The next six goals scored in the game would all come on the power play. Only two goals during the entire time were scored at even strength.
Midway through the first, Germany took another hooking penalty and Team USA’s strong power play went to work. In the dying seconds on the man advantage, Nick Kerdiles scored his first goal of the tournament, roofing a great wrist shot over Klein’s right shoulder. Late in the first, Steve Santini was called for interference, but once again, Team USA’s PK was stellar, not even allowing Germany a shot on goal and playing much of the first minute in Germany’s zone.
Things would not turn around for Team Germany, though, as 10 seconds into the middle frame, Leon Draisaitl (undeniably Germany’s best player and likely a first round pick at the NHL draft this summer) made a dangerous hit on Andrew Copp in the corner. Fortunately, Copp was able to get to the bench under his own power and did return to the game. For his troubles, Draisaitl got a major penalty and an automatic game misconduct. It went from bad to worse for Germany as a minute and a half into the penalty kill, they took another hooking penalty, giving USA’s already potent power play an extra man advantage for two full minutes. Thirty seconds into the 5v3, Will Butcher received a pass from Jack Eichel, found a lane and put it top shelf for a very pretty goal. With just under two minutes left in the major, Vince Hinostroza found a hole and beat a laterally sliding Klein to make it 4-0, Team USA. The rest of the power play ended without anymore goals, though not for lack of trying.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Anthony Stolarz was sitting on top of his net and knitting a sweater, then decided that was too exhausting and took a nap. OK, not really. The puck hadn’t even entered Team USA’s zone for the first five and a half minutes of the second period. Stolarz didn’t even see an actual shot on goal for over seven and a half minutes in and it was only a harmless dump in from 100 feet out. Germany’s first real scoring chance came about eight and a half minutes into the second period as they tried to jam it short side. Stolarz made just his eighth save of the game with a little over ten minutes left to go.
Shortly thereafter, Germany took another penalty, this time for holding. Riley Barber scored his third goal of the tournament 1:10 into the power play. Dubbed a “seeing eye” shot by the NHL commentators, Barber found a lane and shot the puck through traffic with a nice screen in front. Cue the Boss. (For those who don’t know, when Team USA is the “home” team, their goal song is “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen.)
A couple minutes later, you guessed it, the Germans continued their parade to the penalty box with two guys going to the box for two separate infractions (slashing and high sticking). Matt Grzelcyk scored his second of the tournament at 1:23 after he gathered Hinstroza’s shot that had rang off the post. He walked to the top of the circles, snapped the puck and it went in bar down. On the remaining power play, Hudson Fasching had a chance to further pad Team USA’s score with a wraparound but just couldn’t quite put it in.
Germany had a chance to get on the board but Stolarz woke up from his nap just long enough to make the save, bringing Team Germany’s shot total up to four for the period and their scoring chance up to two for the period. Mercifully for the Germans, the rest of the period passed by without incident.
The third period saw a goalie change for Team Germany and the ice a bit more level at both ends. A little less than five minutes in saw coincidental roughing minors for Team USA and Team Germany and no real scoring chances for either team. Germany apparently wanted to keep giving Team USA a chance to work on their power play as they took another penalty around the halfway mark of the final frame, this time for slashing. On the ensuing power play, Team USA apparently decided to experiment a little with their structure and use defensive defenseman Steve Santini a little differently. They “put Santini as a slot presence,” according to one of the NHL announcers. It paid off as Grzelcyk’s shot deflected off Santini and into the net for his first point of the tournament.
Germany followed up this penalty kill by gifting Team USA with yet another power play. Although the US failed to score on that power play, they did get an even strength goal not long after the man advantage had expired. Quentin Shore carried the puck out of the corner, dangled around a German player, then sent a beauty of a backhand pass to Hinostroza who sniped it in for his second of the game. The rest of the game passed by without much incident. Hinostroza did have a few good attempts for the hat trick, but was denied. Germany did cede one more power play chance to Team USA late in the game, but by then, it didn’t matter anymore and the US didn’t do much with their final man advantage.
Overall, Team USA’s power play went 6 for 10 (good enough for 60% on the day) and 3 for 3 on the penalty kill (100% if you hadn’t figured that out yet. Coincidental minors cancel out any advantage). With the win, the US improved to 3-0 in the tournament while Anthony Stolarz earned his shutout stopping all 16 shots he faced. Seven different players scored a goal in the 8-0 rout and 14 different players picked up a point. Once again, scoring by committee powered the US to another victory.
Perhaps unable to summon the emotion necessary to maintain a full 60 minutes of pressure through their first two games, Team USA came flying out of the gate today. While they did take a couple of penalties early in the game, killing those penalties allowed them to find their game. Despite jumping out to another early lead, the team was able to sustain the necessary emotion level to keep pressure on Team Germany. It looks like Team USA is firing on all cylinders and the team chemistry is really building.
While you could’ve picked pretty much any player, Hudson Fasching was named Player of the Game. He opened the scoring with a wrist shot that beat German goalie Patrick Klein 5-hole and had several other great scoring opportunities, though he was unable to capitalize on any of them. Selected by the LA Kings in the 4th round (118th overall) in the 2013 draft, he is certainly making a name for himself in this tournament. Playing on the third line with Andrew Copp and Stefan Matteau, the 6’2 200 lb Fasching is the “smallest” forward on the line (he edges both of his linemates by an inch but both outweigh him). The three have combined for eight points in three games (4 goals, 4 assists) and demonstrating a keen ability to play a strong 200 ft game. Fasching in particular is proving to be a workhorse who never quits on the play. While his play did not lead to any direct scoring chances for in Sunday’s game, his work ethic led directly to a goal in Friday’s game. Fasching is a player to keep an eye on as he continues to develop his north-south game.
Said Chris Peters of the blog United States of Hockey about Fasching, “Fasching was a dominant force on many, if not all of his shifts. He is so hard to take off the puck and does a great job down low. From the faceoff dots down in the offensive zone, the U.S. doesn’t have a guy who has been better than Fasching there. It’s an important area and will be even more important against Canada.” You can check out his entire recap and his thoughts on the game here.
While the US made it look easy with an 8-0 victory over a far weaker opponent, it was a hard earned victory that was anything but.
All photos are courtesy of Ellen DeLuca, the official photographer for Team USA at the WJC. You can find more photos here.