Jack Campbell had an off night last night. By off, I don’t mean he played poorly. In fact, he played quite well. It’s just that he didn’t have to play much. Like the Canadian-Czech Republic game before them, this was a one-sided affair with Team USA dominating the Slovkians from the first puck drop.
The US team spent the majority of the game in the Slovakian zone. The trend started right away in the first, and Slovakian goaltender Dominik Riecicky was tested early and often. Kyle Palmieri started the offensive attack with a great shot that challenged Riecicky though he was able to handle it. Then Palmeri got a two-on-one going with teammate Charlie Coyle due to a physical turnover at the blueline. Palmieri drove to the net to receive a clean pass from Coyle across the crease. It was an easy goal, and Team USA was up 1-0 within 5 minutes.
The US forecheck was so strong that Slovakia simply couldn’t enter the zone, and Campbell wasn’t facing any shots. Trying to create energy for his team, Peter Hrasko laid a big and nasty hit on Jerry D’Amigo, getting his elbow up and slamming the American into the glass head first. It was a scary moment as D’Amigo was on the ice for quite a while, but he was able to skate to the bench and return to the game. Hrasko, on the other hand, was given a five minute major, game misconduct and a one-game suspension as well as two more games due to the severity of the hit to the head.
On the ensuing power play, the US was able to keep the puck in the offensive zone for nearly two of the five minutes, at which time Palmieri (get used to hearing that name) tallied his second of the night. It was a bad angle, throw it on net from the right side kind of shot that slipped perfectly behind Riecicky. Two to zero.
Within the first ten minutes, the United States was already outshooting the Slovakians eleven to one. Although the Slovakian PK got better as time went on, it was still a US show. They net another goal, but it was waved off because the net was dislodged a moment before the puck went in. The scrum landed another penalty for the Slovak team, and the US went on another power play. The PP produced a ton of quality chances, forcing Riecicky to come up big, but he held on. At the end of the first, it was still a two-nothing affair.
Having already given up 22 shots on net, The Slovakians came out in the second upping the physical play in the hopes to throw the Americans off their game. Immediately after the announcers commented that Campbell needed some action so that he wouldn’t go cold, Team Slovakia got a rush going, and he had to make a blocker save. Unfortunately, that’s all they got, and the play ended up back in their zone. Due to strong pressure that kept the Slovakians scrambling, Andrej Kudrna shot the puck over the glass, resulting in a delay of game penalty. Another power play for the US.
Once again, the Americans were all over the Slovakians, working the puck and getting bodies in the crease. Palmieri won a battle to the puck and took another tough angled shot from the side of the net, which landed right in front of Coyle who patiently waited for the goaltender to go down to score the third goal of the night.
Thus far, the United States was two for three on the power play. Still, they didn’t slow down. Coyle fought off three defenders to maintain possession and set up a shot on net. The continued pressure forced the Slovakians to take yet another penalty: Peter Trska for hooking. They put up a better showing on this penalty kill, not allowing the USA to set up a cycle and getting the puck deep into the US’s zone. Penalty killed.
Campbell was doing a great job of handling the puck which helped his forwards push the play back into the offensive zone. More pressure, another hooking penalty on the Slovakians, this time by Adam Janosik. The power play was much more effective this time around, resulting in a huge defensive breakdown and yet another goal. Chris Brown was all alone in front of the net. This put the Americans up four to zip.
With seven minutes to go in the second, the United States already had 35 shots on net to Slovakia’s 6. Do you think Campbell was a bit bored? Yeah, me too. Sudenly, though, the Slovakian’s showed some life; with some good work down low, they forced Campbell to overcomit to the right and lose sight of the puck. This allowed Tomas Jurco, who was parked in front of the net, to score an easy goal. As the fans began to chant "Campbellll, Campbellll" (it was one goal, people), the US had to go on the defensive a bit - until they scored again. Drew Shore squeezed his way through the D, slid a puck under the Slovakian’s stick, and used his backhand to lift the puck and send it just under Riecicky’s arm. The five-one lead didn’t last, however, as Riecicky let in a super soft goal to Emerson Etem. After six goals, the Slovakian coach decided enough was enough and pulled his goaltender.
Holly came in and faced the same onslaught. Palmieri took a puck to the face at center ice, but he got up - slowly - and then made the defensive play to transition the puck out of the zone. It seemed every battle for the puck - whether in the corners, at the blueline, along the boards, at center ice - ended up in the American’s favor. Thus, at the end of two, the scoreboard had the United States leading 6-1.
Team USA picked up in the third right where they left off in the second. Pressure, takeaways, shots on net, everything you’d expect to see when one team is dominating the way they were. Campbell was finally tested with a hard, point blank shot, yet he handled it easily. Brown landed a huge hit center ice, and Jason Zucker followed it up along the boards with another. Martin Marincin lost his cool and retaliated, even though Zucker’s hit was totally clean. The Slovakian nailed the American hard in the head with his elbow, sending Zucker to the ice for a couple of minutes. When he did finally get up, he looked disoriented and shaky. As per regulations, Marincin received a five minute major, game misconduct, and a one-game suspension with 3 more games thrown in.
The US wasn’t able to capitalize on the power play and, instead, took their first penalty of the night: Team Captain, John Ramage, for cross checking. That didn’t stop the offensive power, however, as Ryan Borque raced up the ice for a slick 360 followed by a backhander. Holly handled it well and kept the Americans to 6 goals. The USA took their second and final penalty of the night as D’Amigo was called for slashing. This gave the Slovakians a 5 on 3, and they stepped on the gas. Stuck in their own zone for the remainder of the period, Campbell came up huge and stopped a flurry of shots. Yet, he was playing so well and had such confidence, he would challenge shooters from outside the blue paint. Nobody was getting anything more past him.
The final score: Team USA 6, Slovakia 1
- US won 95% of their face offs (yes, 95%)
- They ended the night with 57 shots on goal to Slovakia’s 18
- Slovakia amassed 58 penalty minutes while the United States only had 4
- The Americans were without two players: forwards Jeremy Morin and Brock Nelson
- Emerson Etem was booed every time he touched the puck for recently Tweeting that Buffalo was a ghost town with nothing to do and that it made Medicine Hat look like paradise. Tsk, Tsk Emerson. Did you learn nothing from Dan Ellis?
Players of the Game:
USA - Kyle Palmieri - 2 goals/1 assit
Slovakia - Juraj Majdan - 1 assist/plus-one
Next up for USA: v. Germany, December 30th at 5 pm MT/7 pm ET