USA falls to Russia; Barber, Kuraly scoreless

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Compared to our views yesterday, the USA’s fates have completely turned. Not only on the scoreboard, but in the Pool of Death as well, as Russia skated to a 2-1 victory over Team USA today in Ufa, Russia.

This morning’s game (evening in Russia) matched a US squad that had our hopes very high for the World Junior Championship, and Russia was coming in with a little trepidation. Russia needed overtime to be Slovakia in their tournament opener on Wednesday, and had lost one of their players to suspension on a viscious and dirty cross check late in that game. The host country needed the 3 points they earned today, and they did it much as we would expect the Americans to do so: with gritty defense and outstanding goaltending.

Russia named their goalie Andrei Makarov as the player of the game, a fitting title for his performance. Makarov stopped all but 1 of the 41 shots he faced, and Miami’s Riley Barber was a key contributor in the goal scored by Michigan Freshman Jacob Trouba. Barber skated to the front of the net and laid a perfect screen in front as his linemate Alex Galchenyuk fired a pass to Trouba in the high slot, who then made it count. Makarov never saw the shot, and it was behind him in a flash. Other than that, Makarov showed the brilliance we expected from him as the WHL’s top goaltending prospect for the Saskatoon Blades.

While it was an entertaining game throughout, the best hockey of the game came in the second period. Russia started very quickly, with 4 odd-man rushes in the first 5 minutes. Then, the US came back strong and had their best 15 minutes of hockey. They were winning puck battles, throwing shots on net, and did just about everything but score. Because of his efforts in net, I thought Michigan de-commit John Gibson would be named the USA’s player of the game. He simply stood on his head and played a great game. If it weren’t for a good bounce on EACH of the 2 Russian goals, we’re looking at a very different pool. Instead, Trouba earned the player of the game nod for scoring the only American goal.

Instead, the Americans now fall to 3rd in the “Pool of Death” that includes the two teams they have faced, along with Canada (their next foe) and Slovakia. Take a look at Chris Peter’s recap from the United States of Hockey Blog, which includes video of the US’s only goal (watch for #16 Barber in front) and the full standings table.

Quick hits:

  • Miami’s Sean Kuraly was paired again with Barber and Galchenyuk on the top line, and all three were pressuring the net all night. Kuraly tied for a team high with 4 shots, Barber added two, and surprisingly, Galchenyuk only had one for the game. Kuraly was solid on the faceoff dot as well, winning 12 of his 20 puck drops.
  • Russia scored just 2:42 into the game on their first power play attempt and finished 1 for 5 on the PK. USA went 1 for 4 on the power play. It seems the Barber-Kuraly-Galchenyuk line is the top PP line as well as the starting and number 1 line to this point of the tournament.
  • Miami de-commit Pat Sieloff was named to the Team USA roster and dressed today as the 7th defenseman. That finalizes the roster and Sieloff should see some more action as the tournament goes on. Team USA now has 2 current Miamians, 1 former RedHawk (Tyler Biggs, who was rather unimpressive again), and 3 de-committed players (F Ryan Hartman, D Connor Murphy and Sieloff).

Team USA has an off-day scheduled for Saturday – perfect timing to allow us to watch the Three Rivers Classic. The next action comes Sunday at 4:30AM Eastern Time, as they take on the great white north Canadians. The game will be available on the NHL Network, as well as streamed on NHL.com. If you can stay “in the dark” you can also catch a replay of the game on the NHL Network at 8:00PM Eastern.

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Posted on December 28, 2012, in 2012-13 News, Riley Barber, Sean Kuraly, World Junior Championships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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