SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – Heartbroken in its 2009 World Junior A Challenge opener against Canada East on Sunday night, when it blew a 4-1 third-period lead and lost in a shootout, the United States made sure it did not make the same mistake again Tuesday.
Up 4-1 after 40 minutes against Belarus, the Americans outshot the European side 14-8 in the third period and potted two more goals to cruise to a 6-1 win in the preliminary round finale at Molson Canadian Arena at CUP.
The victory gives the U.S. second place in Group B and sets up a quarter-final match-up with Sweden on Thursday (2 p.m. AT), while Belarus, as a result of its third-place finish, meets Canada West in Thursday’s late quarter (7 p.m. AT).
It was the American power play, more specifically Shane Berschbach and Matt Leitner, that owned the first period, as Leitner twice set up Berschbach for back door goals with the man advantage to give the North Americans a two-goal lead after 20 minutes.
The PP struck again 7:27 into the second period, with Leitner and Berschbach combining to set up U.S. captain David Gerths for the 3-0 goal.
The game’s first 5-on-5 goal came less than four minutes after that, although it was a 6-on-5 advantage for the Americans thanks to a delayed penalty call. Derek DeBloid did the sniping from the slot for the U.S., pushing its lead to four goals.
Kiryl Brykun finally put a puck past American netminder Eric Mihalik on the Belarussians’ 13th shot of the second period, deftly redirecting a pass Nikita Remezov past Brykun with 32 seconds left in the frame to give Belarus a glimmer of hope heading to the third.
That glimmer would be short-lived, however, as Beau Bennett knocked a rebound past Stanislau Artynski and Colten St. Clair banked a shot off a Belarussian defender to cap the scoring in the third period.
St. Clair’s goal was the Americans’ fourth power play marker of the game – the U.S. finished the prelims with as 23.5% success rate with the man advantage, good for third in the tournament. The leader? Belarus, which finished at 30.8% (4-for-13).
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)