The United States defeated Slovakia 5-2 to advance to the semifinals against Finland on Monday. It was another strong showing for the Americans, who outshot their opponents 43-18 in a game that felt more spread out than the score indicates. This was the first time the American goaltenders have allowed a goal since their opening night loss to Russia, but their strong play remained. They have a few notes to make after this one but should be prepared going forward.
The Americans will face an even tougher test in Finland for a chance to play in the gold medal game. The Finns have ended the Americans’ tournament in each of the last two World Juniors tournaments. This year’s strong United States team will look for revenge and an opportunity to face the winner of Canada and Russia on Monday.
After taking a shutout into the second period of this game, the American goalies set a record for the longest shutout streak at the World Juniors. The streak lasted 218:53, with Matej Kaslik scoring the first goal against the United States since an empty netter against Russia. Both Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf contributed to keeping the shutouts going, with Knight’s rebound performances being one of the highlights of the American tournament thus far.
As the United States advances in the tournament, the team’s confidence in both goaltenders gives them an advantage if either one falters or suffers an injury. Knight just became the first American goalie to record back-to-back shutouts and should continue to be the starter as long as the United States remains in the tournament.
Third Line Steps Up
The United States has had consistent scoring from its top six, but supplemental scoring has been hard to come by. The third line broke through against the Slovaks, with two goals coming from John Farinacci. Linemate Bobby Brink added two assists, while Brett Berard also added a helper in the win.
The team’s top scorers contributed as well, but it was the unexpected help from Farinacci and company that pushed the United States to victory. More consistent depth scoring will be a key to the team’s next game against Finland if they want a chance at the gold.
Power Play Stays Hot
The United States power play added to its strong tournament with two more goals against Slovakia. Arthur Kaliyev’s power-play tally was the only goal in the first period, and Cole Caufield’s acted as the game-winner. Trevor Zegras, who is leading the tournament in assists and points, had two more helpers with the man advantage.
While they were capitalizing on the power play, the Americans did take more penalties than they typically do. The Americans were shorthanded three times, with an additional coincidental minor, and allowed a shorthanded goal to assist in Slovakia’s comeback attempt. More disciplined play will be an adjustment as the Americans prepare to face a very opportunistic Team Finland.
Finland is coming off a comeback victory against Sweden, following back-to-back losses for the Swedes in preliminary play. Finland was down early and managed to recover, which the United States should pay attention to as most of their games have been lopsided.
The United States’ top scorers are all on hot streaks, and should be looking to throw anything they can on net against Finland. Even though Knight let in two goals in this game, he has still had a strong tournament overall and should be relied upon accordingly. Monday night’s game should be a good one, and the winner will have a fair chance of taking the gold when all is said and done.