MINSK, Belarus – Seth Jones (Plano, Texas/Nashville Predators) scored twice -- including the game-winning goal in overtime -- and Craig Smith (Madison, Wis./Univ. of Wisconsin/Nashville Predators) and Matt Donovan (Edmond, Okla./Univ. of Denver/N.Y. Islanders) each had a goal to help the U.S. Men’s National Team defeat Kazakhstan, 4-3, in preliminary-round play at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship here today.
At 1:05 of overtime, Jones scored his second of the game when he picked up a loose puck in the slot and sent a perfectly placed shot into the top corner of the net to secure the win for the U.S.
“We’re happy to come out with a win,” said Peter Laviolette, head coach of the 2014 U.S. Men’s National Team. “It was a very tough game for us. Kazakhstan played very well. I thought Tim Thomas was terrific early when then had a lot of chances. I was really proud of our guys for fighting back the entire game and getting stronger. We had to go to overtime, but it’s a win and we’ll take that.”
The teams traded power-play goals late in the first period. Kazakhstan opened the scoring at 14:23 on a backdoor play before Smith knotted the game at 1-1 4:15 later. Off an offensive-zone draw, Jones moved a puck down the wall and it eventually landed on the stick of Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn./Univ. of North Dakota/N.Y. Islanders). Nelson tapped the puck to Smith, who beat Kazakhstan goaltender Alexei Ivanov with his initial shot, but the puck sat in the crease before Smith batted it home.
Kazakhstan regained the lead just 1:21 into the middle frame when it scored off a turnover to make it 2-1, but Jones scored on a power play at 3:44 to bring the U.S. back to even. Following several quality chances that didn’t find the back of the net, Jones corralled the puck at the right point and blasted a shot over Ivanov’s glove.
Donovan gave the U.S. its first lead of the game, 3-2, when he wired a shot past Ivanov on a delayed penalty at 15:02. After Johnny Gaudreau (Carneys Point, N.J./Boston College/Calgary Flames) drew the call, he wheeled around two players and managed to scoop the puck back to Donovan in the left circle.
Kazakhstan knotted the score at 3-3 with 6:50 remaining in the third frame to force overtime, setting the stage for Jones' game-winner.
The U.S. Men's National Team (2-1-0-2) continues preliminary-round action at the IIHF Men's World Championship Sunday (May 18) against Finland. Puck-drop is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. ET and the game will be broadcast 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.”