So, in case anybody was wondering, Philly is tight AF. But, if I so much as have to look at another white Chevy panel van at any point within the next 25 years, I’m going to vomit.
In taking out winless Slovenia on Sunday, New York Islanders‘ and Team USA forward Brock Nelson continued his torrid run at the 2015 IIHF World Championships, logging a two-goal game and dooming his Central European opposition to the relegation bracket. Giving cushion to yet another scintillating performance by Connor Hellebuyck (I’m executive ordering that the Panthers trade for this sonuvabitch; get this to Dale Tallon ASAP, Iggy), the dynamic third-line duo of Nelson and alternate captain Trevor Lewis played a hand in every American goal, tormenting Slovenian netminder Robert Kristan by combining for six points on the night. With their fifth victory of the round-robin, the Americans stand a point clear of second-placed Russia as kings of Group B, second only to the marauding Canadians for the title of overall leaders.
Things started well enough for the Yankees; putting up nine shots in the first frame, the Americans sprung ahead within five minutes of the opening puck-drop. Jumping onto a redirected Trevor Lewis wrist-shot, University of Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly controlled possession to the right of Kristan’s cage. Skating behind the net, the 21-year old flipped a pass back to an unmarked Nelson, who was wide-open inches away from the crease. With the Slovenian goalie tracking left, the prolific forward deposited his easiest goal of the tournament to the keeper’s right, bouncing the puck in off of Kristan’s right skate. Nelson, momentum pumping through his veins, would double the advantage before the clock expired, latching onto a deflected shot and potting home a power-play goal. Controlling the build-up, Justin Faulk ripped a one-timer from the point, a shot that found it’s way through traffic and struck Trevor Lewis, who was screening the goalie. The loose puck slid over to Nelson, who coolly finished for the brace.
Having clinched an early lead, the American contingent rested on their laurels, allowing their opponents to outshoot them eight shots to three in the second period. Hellebuyck, bailing out his teammates, made a sensational two-on-one save, sprawling cross-crease and using every inch of his 6’4″ frame to stone Rok Ticar on what looked to be a simple finish into a yawning cage. In spite of his best efforts, though, the 21-year old goaltender couldn’t deny Ales Music on the second Slovenian breakaway of the period, conceding glove-side high. Building off of this massive tally, the Slovenians nearly equalized, as Jan Mursak’s power-play effort was miraculously turned away by a timely Connor Murphy block in front of the net.
Stepping up the effort following a frightening second, Jack Eichel buried the game within two minutes of the third period starting; with a healthy scrum brewing in front of the Slovenian net, Brock Nelson once again found himself in the right place at the right time, corralling a diverted Trevor Lewis shot and popping one of his own towards an empty net. Ruining his linemate’s bid for a hat-trick, wunderkind Eichel inadvertently got a piece of the puck, deflecting the shot up into the net for his first of the tournament. Killing off a Seth Jones high-sticking penalty, the Americans would hold on for the victory, with Connor Hellebuyck standing in for his fourth win and bolstering his tournament leading .969 Save Percentage and 0.75 Goals Against Average.
Rounding out preliminary round action, Team USA is slated to square off against fifth-placed Slovakia Tuesday afternoon, a first-seeded finish atop Group B the potential victor’s spoils. So, uhh, yeah. Until then, d00dz. Don’t do anything too stupid-leave that up to me.