It wasn’t the outcome that Team USA expected or hoped for, but it was a commendable effort by the youngest of sixteen teams at the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
Numerous positive thoughts and feedback were conveyed by the youthful group of U.S. players who represented their country at the seventeen-day international tournament in Minsk, Belarus.
“It was a lot of fun, a valuable experience for me,” said Tampa Bay Lightning rookie of the year candidate and Team USA leading goal scorer, Tyler Johnson. “I really enjoyed my time here and Belarus was an unbelievable place to visit.”
“It was a great experience, I think a lot of young guys stepped up and played big roles,” said Johnson’s linemate Brock Nelson, who along with Craig Smith were the team’s most productive line.
The U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinal by the Czech Republic, 4-3, concluding the tournament with a record of 4-1-0-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L), finishing second in group B, behind the 2014 world champions, Russia. Team USA’s 27 goals was third overall in the preliminary round, trailing only Canada and Russia.
“You have to take this as a positive and go back to work in the summer and carry it over to next year,” said Nelson, who also just finished his rookie year with the New York Islanders. “Hopefully, I’ll see some of these guys again in tournaments in the upcoming years.”
“Our group was extremely young and I’m very proud of the way we played this tournament,” said U.S. head coach Peter Laviolette. “It’s disappointing (losing in the quarterfinal), but a lot of guys responded in a real positive way.”
Team USA featured 15 players making their world championship debuts, although six skated together on the 2013 gold-medal winning World Junior Championship team, including 19-year-old defenseman Seth Jones.
Jones continued his impressive international play leading all defenseman at the tournament in points (11) and assists (9), skating in eight games. The Nashville Predator was named the tournament’s Best Defenseman, in addition to being voted onto the tournament All-Star Team.
Another bright spot for the U.S., was the skillful and creative offensive play of Hobey Baker Award winner, Johnny Gaudreau, who was second on the team in scoring with 10 points (2G, 8A). It was the first time playing in a major international tournament for the 20-year-old rising talent.
“This was my first opportunity to work firsthand with Johnny and he’s a very, very impressive talent for the United States,” said U.S. head coach Peter Laviolette of Gaudreau. “He’s also a terrific person off the ice and on the ice, he displays a tremendous amount of talent with his offensive skills.”
Laviolette, who guided his third world championship team, but first since 2005, said he is always grateful for the opportunity to lead Team USA on the international stage.
“It’s a great experience and a great opportunity,” said the 51-year-old Laviolette, who will coach in Nashville next season. “I’m thankful that my phone rings every so often from USA Hockey and I get the chance to coach internationally.”
Laviolette also praised his three assistant coaches: Joe Sacco, Phil Housley and Don Granato, among others.
“The coaches worked their tails off and that’s the great thing about this tournament, you get to work with a new equipment guy, a new coach or a new team manager,” Laviolette said. “You continue to open relationships with new people and see new players that you’ve never coached.”
Key leadership also came from veteran goaltender Tim Thomas, who represented the U.S. at the world championship for the seventh time. The former Stanley Cup champion and two-time Vezina Trophy winner started all eight games for the U.S., earning five victories and twice missing a shutout, allowing only one goal.
“I saw this as an opportunity to get to know some of the younger generation of American players,” Thomas said of his experience in Belarus.
“When I was younger, I got to play with Kevin Stevens, Joe Sacco, Darby Hendrickson, I could go on and on,” said the 40-year-old netminder. “Now being older and playing with these younger guys, I’m familiar with a 30-year generation of U.S. hockey players, so that’s kind of cool.”
The United States remains sixth in the IIHF World Rankings. Next May, at the 2015 IIHF World Championship in Prague/Ostrava, Czech Republic, the U.S. will play the preliminary round in Ostrava, grouped with familiar foes Russia, Finland and Slovakia.
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RIGA, Latvia – Patrick O’Sullivan (Winston Salem, N.C./Houston Aeros), added to the 2006 U.S. Men’s National Team roster yesterday and arriving just four hours before the game tonight, scored the game-winner off a one-timer on a four-on-three man advantage 2:27 into the third period as Team USA downed host Latvia, 4-2, at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. The game was played before a raucous crowd of 9,083 at Arena Riga.
The win guaranteed the United States a spot in the quarterfinal round regardless of how it fares Tuesday (May 16) in its final Qualification Round game against the Czech Republic.
“It was one of the most difficult environments I’ve ever been involved in,” said Mike Eaves, head coach of Team USA, referring to the deafening noise made by the Latvian crowd throughout the game, aided by use of horns, drums and other noisemakers. “It took our players a while to get used to it and adapt. We persevered though. I’m pleased with the victory and happy we’re moving on.
After a scoreless first period, Team USA got out to a 1-0 lead just 59 seconds into the second stanza when Ryan Malone (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Penguins/St. Cloud State University) deflected Mark Cullen’s (Moorhead, Minn./Chicago Blackhawks/Colorado College) shot from the left point high up into the air and over the head of Latvian netminder Sergejs Naumovs. Latvia answered just 1:13 later as Lauris Darzins took advantage of a U.S. turnover and spun around from the side of the right circle to fire one past netminder Craig Anderson (Park Ridge, Ill./Chicago Blackhawks). The Americans regained the lead at 14:39 when Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./Los Angeles Kings) banged home his own rebound with the United States up a man. It looked as though Team USA would take a two-goal lead less than 30 seconds later, but replays showed Mike Komisarek’s (West Islip, N.Y./Montreal Canadiens/University of Michigan) blast from the top of the left circle rang off both posts.
Latvia tied the game just 1:00 into the third period when Aleksandrs Semjonovs beat Anderson to the glove side from 12-feet out. Just 1:27 later, O’Sullivan scored what proved to be the game-winner off a nice feed from Cullen. Defenseman Ryan Suter(Madison, Wis./Nashville Predators/University of Wisconsin) added an insurance goal for Team USA at 9:50 when he blasted one through the legs of Naumovs from the left dot on the power play.
Anderson picked up the win in goal for Team USA with 22 saves while Naumovs had 23 stops in the loss.
Team USA has two days off before facing the Czech Republic Tuesday (May 16) in the final qualification-round game for both teams. Opening faceoff is set for 3:15 p.m. local time (8:15 a.m. EDT) at Arena Riga.
NOTES: Team USA had a big night on special teams. The U.S. power play connected on three-of-nine opportunities, while the Americans killed off nine of 10 Latvian power-play attempts … Catherine Todd Bailey, the U.S. ambassador to Latvia, attended tonight’s game … Brown had a power-play goal tonight. He has four goals in the World Championship, all on the power play.
LAT 0-1-1 -- 2
USA 0-2-2 -- 4
First Period – Scoring: None. Penalties: LAT, Daugavins (high-sticking), 0:48; Semjonovs (high-sticking), 3:33; Semjonovs (high-sticking), 3:33; USA, Bench (too many players), 7:10; USA, Gill (cross-checking), 9:24; USA, Malone (boarding), 11:24; USA, Gill (cross-checking), 12:54; LAT, Saviels (holding), 18:54.
Second Period – Scoring: 1, USA, Malone (Cullen, Brown), 0:59; 2, LAT, Darzins (unassisted), 2:12; 3, USA, Brown (Kessel), 14:39 (pp). Penalties: USA, Brown (charging), 3:57; USA, Brown (cross-checking), 6:57; LAT, Pujacs (tripping), 13:04; USA, Gill (holding), 16:59; LAT, Saviels (interference), 17:36; LAT, Galvins (hooking), 19:00; USA, Brown (interference), 19:15.
Third Period – Scoring: 4, LAT, Semjonovs (Daugavins), 1:00 (pp); 5, USA, O’Sullivan (Cullen), 2:27 (pp); USA, Suter (unassisted), 9:50 (pp). Penalties: USA, Gill (high-sticking), 0:38; LAT, Tambijevs (slashing), 0:38; USA, Kessel (roughing), 1:30; LAT, Pujacs (roughing), 1:30; LAT, Darzins (high-sticking), 2:11; USA, Meyer (tripping), 7:40; LAT, Nizivijs (holding), 9:25; USA, Brown (charging), 10:32.
Shots By Period 1 2 3 Total
LAT 7 8 9 24
USA 11 10 6 27
Goaltending (SH-SV) 1 2 3 Total
LAT, Naumovs, 60:00 11-11 10-8 6-4 27-23
USA, Anderson, 60:00 7-7 8-7 9-8 24-22
Power Play: LAT 1-10, USA 3-9
Penalties: LAT 11-22, USA 12-24
Officials: Referee-Peter Jonak; Linesmen-Milan Novak, Leo Takula