The round-robin segment of the World Junior Championship has come to an end just in time for New Year’s celebrations all over the world. Team USA has managed to avoid the fate they had last year–playing in the relegation round, the consolation prize of the WJC–by putting together a 9-3 win over Slovakia on Dec. 31.
A three-goal blitz in the first 10 minutes of the first period by Cole Bardreau, captain Jake McCabe and John Gaudreau led to Slovakian goalie Adam Nagy being chased out of the net in favor of Patrik Romancik. Considering how the game went after the goalie change, Nagy had it easy. Less than three minutes after Romancik got in place, Mike Reilly scored, then Jacob Trouba put up a power play goal. Trouba has produced offense in all four of America’s games so far–not bad for a defenseman, not bad at all.
Two more power play goals came in the second period from Gaudreau and Vincent Trocheck, who later scored a full-strength goal at literally the halfway point of the entire game. That made it eight goals from the Red, White and Blue, their full production from their opener against Germany and a great change of pace from a team that was starved for offense against Russia and Canada in identical 2-1 losses. But they weren’t done just yet. Alex Galchenyuk added one more power play goal for good measure, capping it at a 9-3 final. With a goal, 71 percent faceoff wins and four shots on goal, though, Bardreau got the team’s best player honors.
Near the end of the first period, Shayne Gostisbehere committed possibly the most dunder-headed penalty of all time when he speared a Slovak player in what Jeremy Clarkson of “Top Gear” would refer to as the gentleman’s area. Gostisbehere might have been able to get away with it–painful as it must be to get hurt in that area (I can only imagine, obviously)–if there hadn’t been a linesman nearby to make the call. Instead of just sitting for two minutes to feel shame, though, Gostisbehere was given a misconduct and sent out early. International games really are called a lot more tightly than North American games. Let’s hope he keeps his stick away from people’s gentleman’s areas in the quarterfinal round.
Still, with this win, America takes the last of the three playoff spots available in Group B. Canada leads the group with 12 points and has earned a bye to the semifinals along with Group A leader Sweden. Russia (eight points) and America (six points) will play in the quarterfinals, Russia against Switzerland and America against the Czech Republic, on Jan. 2.