SASKATOON, Sask. - Team USA overcame an early two-goal deficit and defeated Slovakia by a 7-3 count here tonight in its first game at the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
"I was happy with our resiliancy after falling behind early," said Dean Blais, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "We created a lot of scoring chances, and showed a lot of poise after those two quick goals."
Slovakia established a 2-0 lead just more than five minutes into the contest with a pair of power play goals.
Team USA cut the Slovakia lead in half midway through the period when John Carlson (Colonia, N.J.) fired a slap shot through traffic and past goalie Marek Ciliak. Then, just two minutes into the second period, Jeremy Morin (Auburn, N.Y.) knotted the score, 2-2, when he drove to the net, collected his own rebound and fired a shot high over Ciliak's glove.
U.S. captain Derek Stepan (Hastings, Minn./Univ. of Wisconsin) gave Team USA the lead when he fired a shot from the slot past Ciliak five minutes into the middle frame. The U.S. took a 4-2 lead on the power play when Matt Donovan's (Edmond, Okla./Univ. of Denver) shot from the high slot found the back of the net.
Following a Slovakia power-play goal, Danny Kristo (Eden Prairie, Minn./Univ. of North Dakota) restored Team USA's two-goal lead heading into the third period when he buried a post-to-post pass from Stepan.
Jordan Schroeder (Prior Lake, Minn./Univ. of Minnesota) extended Team USA's advantage to 6-3, chipping a centering pass from Kyle Palmieri (Montvale, N.J./Univ. of Notre Dame) over Ciliak's blocker less than a minute into the third. Jerry D'Amigo (Binghamton, N.Y./Rensselaer), who was named Team USA's Player of the Game, completed the night's scoring on a give-and-go play with Kristo.
Team USA goalie Mike Lee (Roseau, Minn./St. Cloud State Univ.) turned aside 17 shots in the win, while Ciliak stopped 39 shots in a losing effort.
Next action for Team USA comes tomorrow (Dec. 27) at 3 p.m. CST against Switzerland. The game can be seen live in the U.S. on the NHL Network. It will also be streamed live in the U.S. on FASTHockey.com.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)