It will never stop being unusual to see live hockey played before noon Eastern time. Whether because of the KHL game that ESPN2 aired (with mixed results) in October, upcoming Sochi 2014 Olympic games or other tournaments played in different parts of the world, it is still very strange to get your hockey fix in before you’ve had your lunch.
Still, today’s World Junior Championship game between Team USA and Germany made that unusual time-shift all worthwhile.
The goal onslaught from America began before the commentators were even finished getting their introductory narration done, really. Just 19 seconds into the first period, Sean Kuraly (2011 San Jose Sharks pick)–an Ohio native who attends my parents’ alma mater, Miami University, which is not University of Miami, as it was erroneously referred to a few times in the broadcast–got one past German netminder Marvin Cupper to get USA on the board.
The scoring just kept on coming from Team USA: Jacob Trouba (2012 Winnipeg Jets pick) and Alex Galchenyuk (2012 Montreal Canadiens pick) both scored even-strength goals before the first 20 minutes of play were done. So when the first buzzer sounded, it was already 3-0.
Then, amusingly, Riley Barber (2012 Washington Capitals pick and fellow Miami RedHawk) scored a goal 14 seconds into the second period. Shayne Gostisbehere (2012 Philadelphia Flyers pick) and Ryan Hartman (2013 draft eligible) each had a goal later in the second period, the two tallies coming less than a minute apart.
Though the third period was riddled with penalties on the American side, Germany couldn’t solve either Jon Gillies (2012 Calgary Flames pick) or John Gibson (2011 Anaheim Ducks pick), even when on a two-man advantage. In fact, Germany never solved either of the G-named goalies at all. J.T. Miller (2011 New York Rangers pick) and Seth Jones (2013 eligible and I will eat my hat if he isn’t drafted in the first 10 slots) both tallied third-period goals to bring about an 8-0 win.
Sure, they didn’t put up nine goals like Canada did against Germany the day before, but they also kept their door shut entirely. With three points earned from this regulation win, America now tops the Group B standings.
A lot of the young men on Team USA come from hockey pedigrees. Many of them have fathers who played in the NHL or in other pro leagues. One of the goalies comes from a long line of goaltenders that includes many of his male relatives. Then, of course, there’s Seth Jones.
His story is an interesting one: born in Texas of an NBA player father–Ronald “Popeye” Jones, currently the assistant coach of the Brooklyn Nets–he was growing up in the Denver area and starting to take an interest in hockey because of the Colorado Avalanche. Popeye once ran into Hall of Famer Joe Sakic in the Pepsi Center hallways and even asked the legendary player for advice on how his son could succeed in the sport he liked.
Though his surname is obviously Russian and he did spend time living in Russia as a kid, Galchenyuk was born in America and chooses to identify as American. He was named the best player of today’s game on the US side.
This team is full of young guys with a good work ethic and a desire to do better than America did in last year’s World Junior tournament. I like that they come from many different states, including Florida and California, which aren’t “traditional” hockey locales. Some of the players were first exposed to hockey by watching their local team–sometimes a younger expansion team–play, which makes the case for the existence of expansion teams quite nicely in my view.
I did notice that Matt Grzelcyk (2012 Boston Bruins pick) did not play. Team USA has yet to make its final roster cuts, but reportedly will decide between keeping Grzelcyk or Patrick Sieloff (another 2012 Flames pick) as the last defenseman in the group. Grzelcyk is potent on the power play, which seems a little weak for this squad, even though one of the goals today was scored on the man advantage. There were still other wasted power play chances and Grzelcyk could help tighten up those two-minute opportunities. There’s still time for the team brass to decide.
The American team has a little time to rest before facing host Russia on Dec. 28 at 9 a.m. Eastern. For Galchenyuk, this will be an interesting game. On the Russian side is none other than Nail Yakupov, who went two picks above Galchenyuk in the 2012 draft and was his teammate with the OHL Sarnia Sting.
But if today’s showing is any indication, that game is going to be well worth watching, despite the huge time difference.