In a game where it looked as if both teams would fight for the win ended in another strong finish by the U.S. where they scored two in the third period to beat Slovakia 3-0 at Bell Centre in Group A of the World Junior Championships Monday. Red Wings draft pick Dylan Larkin captured player of the game honors for the second game with a goal and assist for two points.
Team USA is on a good run through the 2015 World Junior Championship after winning the last two games in stunning fashion. They face a Slovakian team that is not to be underrated. They shocked the defending champion Finnish team pulling off a 2-1 win two days ago. They will face goaltender Thatcher Demko who is the Vancouver Canucks second round pick made his second start after his stellar performance in the shootout Friday against Finland.
The first period saw little effort from both teams but a surprising downgrade to the level of offense that the United States has shown. They took ten shots on Slovakian goaltender Denis Godla but didn’t have the same amount of pressure they carry when scoring goals. The same could be said for the Slovaks as they only got three shots on net as the Americans had a strong hold on puck possession. The end of the first period concluded with the U.S. outshooting Slovakia 10-3.
The second period began just like the first as the United States got numerous shots on net but none behind Godla. Slovakia showed signs of offense as they challenged Demko who responded with big saves from their first and second lines. Team USA put their game into a higher gear where the shots on goal and scoring chances began to climb higher.
At 17:42 the stalemate between the teams came to an end with Columbus prospect Sonny Milano scored the puck on the high slot of the net for his second of the tournament and what USA coach Mark Osiecki wanted to see. It still wasn’t the level that he wanted to see his team as a goal split the teams apart with the third left to play.
The United States stepped up fast where Larkin scored the team’s second unanswered on Godla where he whipped the puck into the crease where it got behind the netminder for his third of the tournament and second point in the game. Colorado Avalanche draft pick Will Butcher had a great shot on the point but the glove of Godla was there to prevent a third unanswered from going in the net. It helped the Slovakian team get another chance to break onto the board with a power play late in the game.
They couldn’t get it done with the U.S. all over them killing off the man advantage and getting back at it. They did on another great shot from John Hayden who took the same approach as Larkin had where Godla couldn’t get a chance at making the save that ultimately handed Team USA the victory. Team USA ended the game shooting 45 shots to the net while Slovakia pulled off 17. Demko finished with his first shutout of the tournament. Godla was clearly rocked but received praise from his team with phenomenal stops as he made 42 saves against the Americans.
“I think were a resilient group,” Larkin said to NHL Network reporter Dave Starman. “The Slovaks played us hard and they’re defensive and we found a way to pull through and it was a good team win for us building towards Canada and the medal rounds.” It may not have been the game the U.S. hockey team wanted to play but it will need to be stepped up as they face Canada on Wednesday. “They’re a great team, and they’re a fast team, and were a fast team too so it’s gonna be an exciting game.”