(photo: USA Hockey)
The Americans are enjoying their time in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and their 3-0-0-0 record to start the 2015 IIHF Men’s World Championship may have something to do with that. It’s the best opening Team USA has had in this tournament in 18 years – and most of the roster is made up of kids, 11 of whom are making their debut at this stage of play.
With their 4-2 win on Monday over Russia, Team USA now sits firmly atop the Group B standings. It was a game that the players and coach couldn’t help but describe as “fun,”
- “It was lots of fun – they’re a big strong team with a lot of skill and star power; guys you grow up watching in the NHL.” – defenseman Torey Krug
- “I can’t say enough about the players and this was a lot of fun, it really was.” – coach Todd Richards
- “It was far more fun than I thought it could be.” – goaltender Jack Campbell
The atmosphere is bound to be thrilling when taking on a long time rival at the international stage, but the pro-Russia packed crowd made the victory even sweeter. Trevor Lewis opened the scoring at 6:22 of the second period off a rebound that bounced off Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shoulder. Seth Jones had the initial shot after a clean faceoff win by Jack Eichel, and Lewis was in the right place at the right time to knock it home. Team USA held a 1-0 lead through the end of the first.
Russia got on the board quickly in the second period, when Anton Belov tied things up at 1-1 at 3:40. Less than three minutes later, however, Torey Krug stuck on a 5-on-3 man advantage after Jones made a spectacular play to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Justin Faulk had taken a blistering one-timer shot that went wide, its momentum surely would have taken the puck out of the zone and broken the offensive chance had it not been for Jones’ all-out hustle to keep it in. Once again Team USA held a one goal lead after the period, and went into the second intermission up 2-1.
A little over halfway through the third period, the Americans extended their lead to 3-1 when Mark Arcobello picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, skated it in and scored at 11:52. Russia didn’t give up after the two goal deficit, however, as they rallied back to within one at 16:19 of the third period with a goal from Sergei Plotnikov to tighten the score at 3-2. It wasn’t enough, though, after Ilya Kovachuk had a decent chance with the goalie pulled and less than 20 seconds remaining in the game, USA iced the puck to staunch the late Russian attack, resulting in a faceoff just outside the defensive zone. Brock Nelson launched the puck toward the empty net after the faceoff, and it drifting in to clinch the victory with just 9 seconds remaining on the board.
Torey Krug was named player of the game, and his four shots on goal led all players. Highly touted prospect Jack Eichel went 15 for 21 in the faceoff circle, with one of those wins earning him an assist on the first goal. International and NHL superstars Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk combined for only two shots on goal. Jack Campbell, who was playing in his first game of the tournament and stopped 15 of the 17 shots he faced, was proud to be wearing the red, white, and blue.
“It was a fast game with a lot of great players so it’s just an honor to be out there and get the win with these guys.”
The team took a day off on Tuesday and was back on ice yesterday for practice. They face Belarus, who is 2-0-1-0 in Group B so far, today at 4:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. ET). Emphasis was placed on the power play at practice, as Krug’s 5-on-3 goal in the game against Russia was only the first power play goal scored by the Americans in 10 opportunities. Penalty killing, on the other hand, has been superb so far with Team USA refusing to give up a single goal when down a man in all three contests so far.
Today’s game against Belarus will be aired live on NBCSN.