Team USA defeated Team Switzerland by a score of 5-1 on Thursday, Dec. 29. After a disappointing 6-3 loss to Team Slovakia on Dec. 28, they were able to bounce back after making some minor changes to their defense, and excelling at both winning faceoffs and controlling the power play and penalty kill.
Changing Up The Defense
Team USA struggled with the tough physical play against Slovakia the previous game, relying on their smaller, more skilled defensemen. Heading into the game against Team Switzerland, minor changes were made to the lineup in an effort to yield different results. Previously, Minnesota Wild prospect Jack Peart was on a defensive pairing with captain and New Jersey Devils prospect Luke Hughes, who has been leading the team in ice time. In this game, Peart was moved to a pairing with Nashville Predators prospect Ryan Ufko, while Hughes was paired with Colorado Avalanche prospect Sean Behrens.
The defense had a great game after the switch-up was made, with four defensemen landing themselves on the score sheet. Ufko got an assist on St. Lous Blues prospect Jimmy Snuggerud’s second-period goal, while Behrens got an assist on a goal by Hughes in the third period. Washington Capitals prospect Ryan Chesley also recorded an assist on a goal by Ottawa Senators prospect Tyler Boucher in the second period.
Related: 3 Takeaways From USA’s 6-3 Loss to Slovakia
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Team USA only allowed one goal by Team Switzerland forward Attilio Biasca, who has been having a rather impressive tournament with three points in three games. The Americans made the decision to start 17-year-old Trey Augustine in net, who stopped 18 of 19 shots.
Power Play Success
The power play was another bright spot for Team USA, as both of their second-period goals came with the man advantage. The first one came from Arizona Coyotes prospect Logan Cooley after Switzerland was called for tripping early in the period. Snuggerrud scored the second goal following a Switzerland cross-checking penalty.
Team USA failed to capitalize on two other penalties, but progress being made in this area was a welcome sight. Their power play is currently 4/10 throughout the first three games of the tournament, and one area that needs improvement going forward. Meanwhile, the penalty kill is doing its part to keep the score down shorthanded. Through six penalty kills they have only allowed one goal.
Team USA also dominated the faceoff circle against Switzerland, leading to some long stretches of time when they were able to maintain control of the puck. They won 34 of 59 of the faceoffs, outdoing Switzerland’s 25 faceoff wins.
The University of Wisconsin and 2023 Draft-eligible forward Charlie Stramel led the team in faceoffs won, with ten on the night. Detroit Red Wings prospect Red Savage also had nine faceoff wins; Cooley finished with eight and Winnipeg Jets prospect Chaz Lucius ended the game with six.
Even when Team USA was unable to control the puck off the faceoff, they were often able to get it quickly back, spending much of the game with control. This was something they lacked against Slovakia, and something they will need to continue working on if they would like to defeat Team Finland in their next and final game of the preliminary round.
One Game Left
Team USA will have the day off on Dec. 30, and will play against Finland on Dec. 31. Currently, they are in second place within their group sitting at six points through their first three games. Team Finland, who also has the day off on Dec. 30, currently holds first place with seven points through three games. The winner of the Dec. 31 game will determine the top seed of Group B.