Talk about a letdown.
After stunning Russia two days ago, Team USA had the looks of a team that could make a deep run in this year’s IIHF World Championship. That run took a big hit today, as Belarus rocked the young American team 5-2. How did a team that looked so good against the mighty Russians, look so bad against Belarus? Mental mistakes, and failing to capitalize on the opportunities presented.
All three of Team Belarus’ goals in the second period came off of the right boards, and two of them came on long bank passes.
Team USA was constantly victimized on long passes, with Belarus players finding the holes in the American defense. The breakdowns led to what basically became break away opportunities that USA netminder Jack Campbell had no shot on.
The Americans were constantly caught out of position on defense, something that up until this game they excelled at. Could this be a sign of things to come, or were the Americans just caught off guard? If you ask Belarus it was more because of the things they did, and not the Americans ability.
It just worked out that we got a couple of counter attacks,” Sergei Kostitsyn said. “They made mistakes in defence and we were able to take our chances. It wasn’t that the USA was weak in defence, we were just stronger on offence.”
After Belarus jumped out to a 2-0 lead, Team USA had a golden opportunity to take advantage of a Alexander Kitarov tripping penalty, and get back into the game. What transpired next would ultimately be the story of the game. After killing off the penalty, Belarus used another long pass to get behind the American defense as Sergi Kostitsyn found Kitraov coming out of the penalty box. After having his original shot deflected, Kitraov was able to retrieve the puck and put it behind Campbell.
Team USA would get two more chances on the power-play in the game, and finally capitalized on their last one when Torey Krug took a nifty pass from Jack Eichel behind Belarus Goalie Kevin Lalande in the third period.
So far in the tournament Team USA has been presented with 15 power-play attempts. Of those 15 attempts the Americans have only scored two power-play goals, with one of those coming on a 5 on 3 advantage. If they have any hope of going far in the tournament, they need to find some kind of offense on the power-play.
The one bright spot for Team USA in the loss was Forward Jack Eichel. Eichel gave a brief preview to the fans of his future team, displaying great stick handling and puck movement.
Eichel accounted for two assists in the game, using his skills to create chances for his American counterparts. While it may have been a down game for the team, Eichel showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with going forward.
Matthew Bowen has been covering the Chicago Blackhawks for 5+ years. He has covered the team for websites such as ChiCitySports, Bleacher Report and Blackhawksondemand.