Team USA finished the round robin play of the World Junior Championships with a great response Thursday afternoon. Four different Americans scored against Denmark beating them 4-1 at the Helsinki Ice Hall. The victory put them in an assured spot to go into the tournament with a second seed in Group A.
The United States finished their preliminary round taking on Denmark in the last of round robin matches in Group A play. They dominated their third match playing what was supposed to be a strong Switzerland squad but ended up a team with no hope. They were routed 10-1 against the Americans that secured their way into the tournament. With just one more to go, it was now going to depend on position in the group to set up their spot in the quarterfinals.
Denmark only had one victory so far that came against the Swiss before they were beaten severely by both Canada and Sweden. With one last effort to make something of being at the championships they would have to answer the United States or face teams that would do anything to get back in.
Traverse City, Michigan native Brandon Halverson was in net for Team USA as his goaltending skills were the right way to end not only prelims, but the end of the year for U.S. Juniors Hockey. For the American team, they once again played as a whole unit moving well to take a lead on shots to the net. Though they moved well on the ice, the Danes were keeping their eyes out for a mistake.
Midway into the first period, Mathias Lassen caught a lined pass from Louis Belpedio behind the net and scored from behind the faceoff dot to catch the low glove side of the net. For them it was a great way to start the game against the Americans but they had to be on their feet for a sudden strike by them.
After taking 10 shots on goal, the United States got a play rolling with Charlie McAvoy firing a shot from the far end that slid by the side of the net. The U.S. got hold of the puck and began a fight near the crease to put the puck behind goalie Mathias Seldrup.
After four tries, it was done by Auston Matthews who scored his fourth of the tournament and third in the last two games. It was a great response to tie up the game as the United States ended twenty minutes having taken 12 shots on them with more opportunities on the way.
A slip up early in the second period gave Denmark their opening power play where solid coverage held them from a scoring chance. When the U.S. returned to even strength, they made a great play in the neutral zone gaining possession. Forward Ryan Donato got a shot off that bounced off Seldrup giving the Americans another try. The play ended with Sonny Milano scoring his first to take the lead. “I kind of just drove to the net and kind of got lucky that it hit my stick and went in so ill take it,” Milano said to NHL Network’s Jill Savage.
With the score in their favor early into the period, the Americans had to keep composed and finish the remaining 16 minutes by staying atop the scoreboard. Their show of offense in the Danish zone proved to be working as they let Seldrup know clearly by recording 16 from start to finish. With the third left to play and Denmark giving them a large amount of time on the power play, it was their time to do nothing more than secure the victory.
The U.S. special teams on the man advantage continued to struggle scoring goals during the time as they let their chance get away from them for the tenth time. They made up for it with their powerful show of force on even strength scoring in the first five minutes of the period. Another battle in the crease where Colin White put the puck into the net but not the way he wished.
Video evidence went against him as he pushed the puck in with his skate waving the goal off. He would get another chance just nine seconds later as they got hold of the loose puck off the faceoff and scored on a drive from Matthews where White positioned in front of the crease to get a stick on it. It was 4-1 2:03 later with Anders Bjork scoring his first of the tournament at the end of a U.S. power play. Centered up at the crease, Bjork got a tip on Milano’s shot from the dot.
The margin of victory was three and with Denmark showing little effort to outduel the United States it would be a 12-minute wait to hear the final horn. The U.S had already taking nine shots in the Danish zone leaving them wanting more but more eager to finish strong. One last power play came into their hands but it was not meant to be, as they couldn’t break in on Seldrup.
Three shots from the United States and nine minutes of play summed up the ending result that Team USA Hockey finished a third victory that had them sitting tied for first place with Sweden. Contributing to the victory was Halverson who had a phenomenal performance in net stopping 16 shots on net.
While they wait for the tournament to begin, their second seed is sure to get them far enough to help them finish with a medal to bring home by the end of the tournament.