MINSK, Belarus – Peter Mueller (Bloomington, Minn.), Craig Smith (Madison, Wis./University of Wisconsin/Nashville Predators) and Tyler Johnson (Spokane, Wash./Tampa Bay Lightning) scored to help the U.S. Men's National Team to a 3-2 victory over Switzerland in its second preliminary-round contest at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship here today.
“We’re really happy with our effort tonight,” said Peter Laviolette, head coach of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team. “I think our guys did a terrific job of showing up in the second night of back-to-back games. They didn’t quit and kept playing in the third period. It was a competitive game both ways, there was a great atmosphere in the building and those are the types of games you want to be in.”
Smith and Johnson scored third-period goals to help the U.S. erase a 2-1 Switzerland advantage. Smith evened the score at 1:28 when he tapped home a rebound from the edge of the crease on a power play. Johnson sent a pass into the slot that Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn./University of North Dakota/N.Y. Islanders) pushed towards the net. His try was blocked, but Smith found the loose puck and scored. Then, with 6:45 remaining in the game, Johnson took a pass from Seth Jones (Plano, Texas/Nashville Predators) at the top of the left circle and quickly sent a shot through traffic and past Swiss goaltender Reto Berra to give Team USA a 3-2 lead.
Following a scoreless first period, Switzerland struck first at 1:28 of the second stanza.
Team USA responded when Mueller converted on a breakaway at 6:15 to knot the score at 1-1. Just after a penalty to Mueller ended, Tim Stapleton (La Grange, Ill./University of Minnesota Duluth) made a perfect outlet pass to spring Mueller in on the break. Mueller moved towards the net, slowed and fired a shot through Berra’s legs. Jeff Petry (Ann Arbor, Mich./Michigan State University/Edmonton Oilers) was credited with the second assist on the play.
The Swiss responded with a goal to retake the lead at 9:39 of the middle period and carried the 2-1 edge into the second intermission.
U.S. goaltender Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich./University of Vermont/Dallas Stars) made 27 saves and was named Team USA's "best player" in the postgame ceremony. Berra had 35 saves for Switzerland.
The U.S. Men's National Team (2-0-0-0) will continue play in the IIHF Men's World Championship Monday (May 12) at 1:45 p.m. ET vs. Russia. The game can be watched live on NBC Sports Network.
HELSINKI, Finland -- In anticipation of tomorrow’s quarterfinal against host Finland (11:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Network in U.S.), Team USA exuded calm and confidence while speaking to the media following Wednesday’s practice at Hartwall Arena.
It is evident that the youthful group, with an average age of just over 25, has relished its recent time spent together, bonding and quickly developing chemistry on the ice here in Finland.
“A lot of us have known each other for a long time, whether it’s playing with or against each other, so it’s been fun to get together in a tournament like this,” said U.S. captain Jack Johnson, who is playing in the world championship for the fifth time. “It kind of reminds me of the 2010 Olympic Team where no one expected us to do anything there, and everyone was willing to do whatever it took to win. We’re a real similar team.”
Defenseman Cam Fowler, who scored his first goal of the tournament on a slick give-and-go with Paul Stastny in last night’s 5-2 victory over Switzerland, echoed similar sentiments.
"It’s tough to kind of mold together when you only have a week of practice,” said Fowler. “I think at the world juniors and here, we’ve done a great job of doing that. I think it’s just the personalities of the guys we have and coming forward toward the same goal. Now we know what we have to do moving forward.”
Along with a third period tally by Chris Butler, Fowler and Butler became the 16th and 17th U.S. players to score a goal at the 2012 IIHF World Championship.
“Our game plan is really bringing everyone into the offense, whether it be different lines or the defense,” said Max Pacioretty, who with 12 points (2-10) in seven games leads Team USA. “We try to include all five players in the offensive zone and that’s how we put pucks in the net.”
“It’s tough to rely solely on one line or a couple of players,” said Johnson. “Fortunately for us, that’s not the case right now. Nobody cares who gets the credit and when you have a group of guys like this it’s a special thing.”
“Our defense has a lot to do with that, jumping in all the time and helping out us forwards,” said Stastny, about the team’s balanced scoring. “All the guys are clicking and we are successful when all four lines have good puck possession down low.”
Justin Faulk, the youngest player on the squad at 20-years old, has been an offensive force on the blue line, displaying poise and maturity. The young talent is tied for third among all defensemen in the tournament with seven points (4-3).
“Everyone is playing well together, finding each other and no one is being too selfish out there,” said the Carolina Hurricane defenseman. “Our defense has been chipping in and jumping into the rush and that’s been huge for us.”
Under Head Coach Scott Gordon, the U.S. concluded the preliminary round at 6-1, marking only the second time in history (1939), Team USA has won six of its first seven games in the world championship.
Starting in goal for the Finns Thursday will be Petri Vehanen. Dallas Star Kari Lehtonen suffered a lower body injury in the latter half of the third period in Sunday’s game against the U.S. and did not practice Wednesday.
“It doesn’t matter who they play in goal,” said Stastny, who had three goals and nine assists in the preliminary round. “Every goalie is good at this point. Plain and simple, you have to get in front of them, make them move and get second chances.”
With high expectations playing in front of the home crowd in what is a hockey-crazed nation, the pressure will surely be on the defending World Champion Finns come Thursday.
“Obviously, they’re probably feeling the pressure being their home tournament, but I don’t think its any real advantage in a one-game knockout where anything can happen,” said Johnson.
“We know we’re playing a completely different game and you can throw away the last one,” said Pacioretty. “They’re going to come out a lot hungrier and it’s going to be a battle. It will be a crazy barn to play in.”
For Team USA, expectations have grown as they’ve steadily progressed as a unit in Helsinki. The last American medal at a World Championship came in 2004, when they claimed bronze in Prague, Czech Republic, and it’s been 52 years since the U.S. has captured a world title.
“This team has the potential to do great in this tournament,” said Johnson. “We’re just here to have fun and we’re here to win it.”
“We know USA hasn’t done too well at the world championships and if we do well here the sport will continue growing in the U.S.,” added Stastny. “We’re here for a reason – we’re here to win. Tomorrow is such a big game for us and that’s why we’re so excited.”