The Matteau-Copp-Fasching line that was buzzing last game started this game for the US and did not disappoint, bringing offensive pressure and speed that the Slovakian team had a difficult time matching. It’s clear that the US team is still feeling each other out, chemistry-wise, but there are pockets where they are definitely showing cohesion. The Matteau-Copp-Fasching line is an obvious example, but also impressive today were Kerdiles and Skjei on the penalty kill. When Danny O’Regan went to the box right off the faceoff early in the period, Kerdiles and Skjei went to work and didn’t allow the Slovakian team much opportunity to get on the board.
Steve Santini also had a solid first period. Stefan Matteau went to the box for interference with 8:51 left in the period, but the aggressive play and effectiveness of the US penalty kill kept the Slovakian team to one shot on goaltender Jon Gillies. Not long after, Riley Barber took a hit from behind, putting the US on the power play, and it didn’t take long for Jack Eichel to get past everyone and score on a beauty of a no-look pass from Ryan Hartman. One of the most impressive things about Eichel is how confident he plays out there – he seems much older than he is when you watch him play. With 43.7 seconds left in the period, the Slovakian goalie Sabol misplayed the puck and took a delay of game penalty, and that didn’t work out too well for his team when Danny O’Regan scored right at the buzzer to put the US up 2-0.
Early in the 2nd period, the US pulled ahead to 3-0 on a power play goal from Ryan Hartman, made possible by a great feed from Will Butcher and terrific overall composure from Jack Eichel. Eichel has shown during this tournament that he plays far more collected than the average 17-year old, and he has been a terrific addition to this US team. Andrew Copp took a slashing penalty not long after the PPG, but the US managed to kill it off thanks in no small part to the aggressive play of Vince Hinostroza. Riley Barber was also all over the ice, making terrific plays with the puck. After that penalty kill, the US was absolutely buzzing, forcing dump-ins and creating great back pressure, but Ian McCoshen took a tripping penalty and Kolena capitalized, making it 3-1.
Gillies appeared to be having trouble with rebounds in the 2nd, because when the US took yet another penalty (Hartman for high-sticking) the Slovakians managed to score again to make it a one-goal game. The US began to unravel, discipline-wise, as the Matteau-Copp-Fasching line took their second straight interference penalty, this time Fasching being the one headed to the box. They managed to make the kill, though, and shortly after, Nic Kerdiles took a high hit and the US ended the period on the power play.
The US didn’t capitalize on the minute left in their power play at the beginning of the 3rd, but they got another chance when Matteau had his stick slashed out of his hands. Slovakia, however, managed two shorthanded chances back-to-back at the beginning of that power play. Gillies came up big, making a huge save on CBJ prospect Marko Dano, who can be a very dangerous player. Nothing came of the second power play of the period, but hard offensive work by Tommy DiPauli got the puck back into Slovakia’s zone and a shot from Connor Carrick bouncing off the boards gave Matt Grzelcyk a wide-open net to make it 4-2. Right after that, a hard shift by the Matteau-Copp-Fasching line ended in a goal for Matteau, and then a great connection from Kerdiles to Copp to Barber made it 6-2 to put the game away. Slovakia managed to put one more behind Gillies off a total defensive breakdown in the USA zone, but the final score was 6-3 in favor of the US.
Zach Stepan out after being dumped awkwardly on his hip during the game vs CZE – left mid-3rd period and did not return. Team is calling him day-to-day with a lower body injury. Jack Eichel not playing like someone who won’t be drafted until 2015…all over the ice for the US, ended with multi-point game (1G, 1A). Matteau becomes USA’s 10th different goal-scorer at the WJC. USA had six separate goal scorers in the game: Eichel, O’Regan, Hartman, Grzelcyk, Matteau, Barber. Lucia probably not going to be incredibly pleased with this win and all of the sloppy defensive moments, but as long as they can clear that up, all that matters is the end result: USA comes out of this game 2-0-0-0.