Phil Housley made a winning World Junior debut as head coach of the American U20 team on Thursday. The IIHF Hall of Famer’s squad rode a three-goal first period to blank Germany 8-0 at Ufa Arena.The top American line came out on fire. Alex Galchenyuk and Riley Barber notched a goal and two assists apiece, while Sean Kuraly added a goal and an assist.
Jacob Trouba, Shayne Gostisbehere, Ryan Hartman, J.T. Miller,and Seth Jones also scored for the Americans.
"We came out strong in the first, second, and third, so I thought that was good for our team," said Trouba.
Though held off the scoresheet, the second line featuring slick wingers John Gaudreau and Rocco Grimaldi also dazzled with their stickhandling displays. The score could have been even higher in the USA’s favour.
Things will get tougher for the Americans on Friday when they face host Russia.
"We’ll need to be ready for tomorrow, because Russia’s going to be a good test for us," said Trouba.
Setting aside some needless penalties in the third period, it was an impressive and poised opener for a Stars and Stripes roster that didn’t “act its age”. The Americans have just three returning players, and six born in 1994. But this group has a strong winning tradition, featuring 12 World U18 gold medalists.
USA starter John Gibson was flawless when tested, stopping all 19 shots he faced in the first two periods. He was replaced by Jon Gillies for the third, and Gillies made seven more saves. German goalie Marvin Cüpper had 38 stops.
Gibson is up for the challenge Russia presents.
"Obviously they have a lot of dangerous players, with [Nail] Yakupov, [Mikhail] Grigorenko, and those guys," said the 19-year-old from the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. "We know they’re a good team with a lot of skill, so we’ve just got to keep playing our game, and hopefully the outcome will be good."
Just 19 seconds in, the German defence looked awfully porous as Kuraly took a pass from Barber and busted in to open the scoring with a backhand deke.
The Americans couldn't convert on their two first power plays. But at 8:30,Trouba’s quick release from the blue line whizzed over Cüpper’s left pad, breaking the video camera at the back of the net in the process.
Near the midway point of the first period, no video replay was required to confirm Galchenyuk’s 3-0 tally as he stickhandled from the left faceoff circle to the blue line and cut back into the slot to let a zinger fly past Cüpper’s glove.
The larger Americans took advantage of their size, too. Trouba laid out German forward Dominik Kahun with a solid open-ice hit.
The Germans briefly thought they’d gotten on the board with 5:03 left in the first period, but video replay clearly showed Huba Sekesi putting the puck in the net with his glove.
Gibson proved equal to the task when the Germans got a late-period power play, stopping a Tobias Rieder tip and stoning Kahun with a glove grab.
The USA took just 14 seconds to get its first tally of the second period. When German captain Stephan Kronthaler lost his footing and the puck behind his own goal line, Galchenyuk pounced, centering the puck to Barber, who made no mistake.
At 6:32, Shayne Gostibehere’s power play blast from the top of the right faceoff circle beat Cüpper through traffic to make it 5-0.
Just over a minute later, it was 6-0 when a sloppy German line change allowed Blake Pietila to get behind their defence and power one off the goalie’s pad, with the rebound going to Hartman, who rifled it high into the net.
During a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:39, the Germans put good pressure on Gibson's cage. But despite the crowd’s enthusiastic banging of Skoda noise sticks, they couldn’t summon up a goal.
At 11:24 of the third period, J.T. Miller took advantage when Frederik Tiffels coughed up the puck in the German end, showcasing some dazzling dekes before sliding it under Cüpper.
Seth Jones stepped into the slot and made it 8-0 with a perfect top-shelf shot glove side with under 10 minutes left.
Housley's players continued showing good attention to detail even when the result was long since decided. On a late German breakaway, Grimaldi raced back to knock the puck off Rieder's stick.
Team USA has never lost a game in regulation against Germany at the World Juniors. It now enjoys an all-time record of eight wins and one overtime loss.
There's little respite in sight for Germany, whose next game is against Russia on Saturday.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)