BUFFALO--Kyle Palmieri scored twice in the opening period to lead the U.S. to an easy 6-1 win over Slovakia at HSBC Arena.
The Americans remain undefeated in Group A and have five points (one regulation win, and one overtime win) while Slovakia’s record falls to 1-1. The Slovaks still have three points. USA’s next game is Thursday against Germany while Slovakia plays Switzerland that same day.
Palmieri finished with two goals and an assist while Charlie Coyle had a goal and two assists.
"I think the guys have been a little shaken up by the injuries," Palmieri said, alluding to the absence of Brock Nelson and Jeremy Morin from the lineup, "so we focused on getting off to a quick start. We dominated the first five minutes, scored a couple of goals, and took them out of the game."
“We know the USA is a really good team. We tried to play better, but it’s tough to play almost half of the game shorthanded,” said Slovakia's Tomas Jurco. “I don’t know why we had so many penalties. We know it was too much. We must try to be more careful in the next game, but it will be a tough game against Switzerland.”
The Americans started out with impressive speed and the Slovaks simply couldn’t answer in kind. The result was an opening 20 minutes in which the shots were 22-1 in favour of the home side. Palmieri got the first goal at 4:31 by finishing a nice two-on-one with Coyle. Defenceman Peter Hrasko slid too early to try to block the pass across, and Coyle simply skated by him and made a perfect pass to Palmieri as he reached the crease.
Just a short time later, Hrasko hammered Jerry D’Amigo with a vicious elbow to the head along the boards. The American lay prone on the ice for several minutes, and Hrasko was given a five-minute major and match penalty, punishment which carries a further and automatic one game suspension. D’Amigo was back in action a few minutes later.
Palmieri got his second goal of the period on the ensuing penalty, getting the puck near the goal line and firing a perfect shot from a bad angle. The Americans made it 3-0 on another man advantage early in the second when Coyle roofed a shot over Riecicky’s glove from close range. Palmieri earned an assist on the play, his third point of the night.
Fans, whose makeup consisted of Canadians staying after their team’s earlier game and Americans in attendance to support their own players, engaged in several friendly verbal chants of “Let’s go Canada, let’s go!” versus, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”
And then there was another group of fans, the anti-Emerson Etem crowd, as it were, who booed the American forward every time he touched the puck. And why? Because on a recent Twitter post he called Buffalo a “ghost town” and “the worst city ever.” He went on: “It makes Medicine Hat look like paradise.” Ergo the boos all night—and the power of Tweeting.
"You can, of course, hear it. I kind of zoned in and just played my game. It’s a hockey town. What you write in Twitter can be portrayed in many different ways. I wasn’t trying to put a negative spin on it, and I had my apologies early on. I just want to move on."
Chris Brown made it a 4-0 game at 11:47 on another power play, the Americans’ speed forcing their opponents to take several penalties trying to hold up or negate that speed. Then, for reasons unknown, the Slovaks found another gear for a brief time. They got one goal back at 12:26 when Tomas Jurco banged in a rebound, and then Marek Hrivik missed an open net with goalie Jack Campbell down and out. For Jurko, the goal came on his 18th birthday, playing in his first game without a full cage.
Hrivik’s turned out to be a big miss. The Americans regained their four-goal lead at 13:32 when Drew Shore scored a highlight-reel goal, deking Andrej Kudrna out of his jock and roofing a backhand over Riecicky to make it 5-1.
"We played the majority time in their defensive zone," Palmieri noted, "and that probably made them frustrated. We have a day off tomorrow but have still some stuff to work on."
Etem scored before the end of the period on a routine shot, producing both cheers and boos. The goal spelled the end for Riecicky as coach Stefan Mikes brought in Juraj Holly with 3:03 left in the period. By this point, shots were 40-11 and Riecicky had had a full night’s work anyway.
Slovakia's Martin Marincin earned five minutes and a game misconduct for a vicious elbow to the head of Jason Zucker in the third period. Zucker lay on the ice in all too familiar fashion before woozily making his way to the bench. This was the fourth ejection of the day, giving the IIHF Directorate much to discuss later tonight.
"That’s hockey," Etem said philosophically, sporting a cut on his nose from an elbow. "It’s tough to see our guys going down. There were guys playing dirty on the other team, but we cannot control that. All we can do is focus on our own game."
Said Drew Shore: "I think that was the most complete game we played since we’ve been assembled. Everything is getting better and that’s what we have to do to win the gold medal."
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)