Team USA won it all last year in Ufa, Russia. They were going to need to be tough, smart, and careful with their penalties if they were going to get past Russia and make it into the semi-finals this year. As the saying goes, two out of three ain’t bad (but two out of three won’t get you the gold). Team USA was defeated 5-3 by the Russians. The American team went out there and they played a tough, smart game.
The problem was that the team was irresponsible with penalties and the Russian team capitalized on those chances. The American team gave the Russian team multiple 5-on-3 chances and the Russians used those power play opportunities. Russia’s Nakita Zadorov’s came through with two power-play goals scored sixty one seconds apart. That gave Russia the tying and go-ahead goal in the third period to seal the deal for them.
“The power plays were the game-changer,” said Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko(who plays for the Buffalo Sabres).”We scored two goals. We took the lead, and we kept it. Those two 5-on-3s in a row were the key. This game made us a better team today than we were yesterday. I think we deserved to win. Hopefully, we can keep the same energy, same compete level for the semifinals.”
Team USA agreed with Grigorenko. “Penalties,” said Team USA’s Stefan Matteau after the game. He was in the sin bin when Zadorov’s first power play goal tied the game up at three. “They buried their chances. The refs did their job. I know North American teams coming over here … maybe the officiating is different, but we still gave them a reason to call penalties. That’s what shot us in the foot. But we got power plays, too. We didn’t finish.”
Team USA won’t get a chance to repeat, but at least some of those young players have earned some more experience playing against NHL level players at the international level.