Team USA took its unblemished record into Sunday night’s game at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship against the other undefeated team in their pool and came out swinging. The Americans used their speed and physicality to full advantage defeating Team Sweden 3-2 in the final preliminary round game in Group B.
The victory secured first place in their pool with a perfect 4-0 record matching them against the fourth place team from Group A, Team Czechia as their quarter-final opponent. Here are three takeaways from this impressive win.
Americans’ Speed Was a Deterrent to the Swedes
Team USA was built in the prototypical model for winning in the 21st Century. Speed combined with skill equals success. For the first three games of the tournament, they have used those strengths to dominate their opponents, outscoring them 19-2 and basically playing “keep away” with the puck. This match was their first game against a world-class power and doing what they wanted with the puck was not going to be quite so easy.
However, what the Americans did was bring tenacity to the game and, for the first time, used their exceptional skating for defense and not just offense alone. They outmuscled the Swedes and won the battles along the boards, something they didn’t need to do in their previous matches.
Related: Team USA 2022 WJC Players to Watch
They were more aggressive and physical without the puck and did not give Team Sweden any room to transition in the neutral zone. For the first time in the tournament, the Americans’ forecheck was the dominant skill on display. They were able to completely tie up the Swedes and instead of scoring highlight goals and demonstrating creative puck work in the offensive end, fans saw an American team that was willing to win puck battles along the boards and use their speed to deter the Swedes from playing their game.
Team USA’s first two goals were scored right on top of Swedish goalie Jesper Wallstedt. The first was a power play marker from Brett Bedard who was right on top of the crease with the puck and knocked home his own rebound. The second was slammed in by Matt Coronato, another rebound from point blank range to the right of the goalie and simply a dirty goal that slipped under Wallstedt’s arm but was the result of American forechecking and pressure.
From that point on the Americans took control of the game outshooting the Swedes 16-3 in the second period alone. A period that they dominated by using their speed for defensive purposes.
Coronato scored his second of the game early in the third before the Swedes scored two late goals to make the score much closer on paper than play would have indicated. This was a game the Americans simply took control of by sheer willpower and dogged play more than just superiority of skill like their first three wins.
Team USA’s Power Play Was a Big Factor
Each team scored one power play goal in three chances, so on paper, it would seem it was not really a major player in this game. That simply was not the case.
The Swedes scored their powerplay goal with 1:15 left in the game after they had already pulled their goalie in favour of an extra attacker making it a two-man advantage. The goal came off a rebound that American netminder Kaidan Mbereko would have liked to have back and not because of anything the Swedes forced themselves.
In their previous two power play chances when the game could have turned in their favour, the Swedes were 0-2 with zero shots on goal. In fact, the Americans outshot them 2-0 when being forced to kill those penalties. This was from a Swedish team that is fully laden with first-round picks and one that has been the epitome of skill development over the past 30 years. It was not the game most expected to see from them.
Team USA scored its powerplay goal in the first period and turned the game’s momentum in their favour. Although they didn’t score another goal with the man advantage, they did have excellent chances and had the Swedes fully on their heels. They simply played with more purpose and determination than their opposition.
Flames Fans Should be Excited About Matt Coronato
The Calgary Flames selected Coronato with their first pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The 13th overall selection is a 5-foot-10 winger from New York City who spent two seasons with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League, before suiting up for Harvard University this past season.
This kid can score. In his two seasons in the USHL, he produced 125 points in 96 games (66 goals, 59 assists) while last year as a freshman in the NCAA, he provided Harvard with 18 goals and 18 assists in 34 games. Thus far in this tournament, Coronato has four goals and two assists in his team’s first four games and is on a line with Logan Cooley and Matt Knies who have been buzzing the entire tournament. For his efforts in this game, he was selected as Team USA’s Player of the Game.
This skilled forward may not be big but he plays big. Coronato is persistent and has been the driving force for his line thus far. He has very soft hands and always wants the puck, which is fine because he knows how to score. His dexterity and creativity are going to be foundational for him moving forward and he could be the next ‘fan favourite’ in Calgary.
Flames fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet, though. Being just 19 years old, he’s still a year or two away from pulling on an NHL uniform, however, they can rest assured they have a good one on the way.
Next Up for Team USA
After manhandling their way through the round-robin portion of the tournament with an unblemished record, the Americans now take on Team Czechia who finished fourth in Group A. All quarter-finals are slated for Wed., Aug. 17. While game times have not been released yet, the Americans have shown they have the ability to repeat as champions and will need to bring the same game on Wednesday as they have demonstrated throughout the preliminary round.
|Team Canada||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team USA||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Austria||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Czechia||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Finland||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Germany||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Sweden||Players to Watch||Roster|
|Team Switzerland||Players to Watch||Roster|
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Keith Forsyth is a freelance writer and sports junkie from rural Manitoba who is covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers. Keith loves all sports and is a huge fan of the NFL (Skol Vikings… if you know, you know) and the Montreal Expos (they’re coming back… you watch!). He recently retired from the education world teaching high school, where his greatest passion was coaching young athletes. He brings that same logical, behind the bench type of approach to you as he delivers an insightful look into the NHL and specifically the Jets. For interview requests or content info, follow Keith on Twitter or his social media accounts. They appear under his photo on articles like this one.