MALMO, Sweden - Six players scored and goaltender Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine/Providence College) made 27 stops to help the U.S. National Junior Team to a 6-3 win against Slovakia today in preliminary round play at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
"Overall, I love to see the power-play goals we were able to get tonight," said Don Lucia, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "The negative is we gave up the two (power-play goals against). We just have to clean up some of the mistakes we made out there. I was happy how we played in the third period as far as five-on-five play to score those separation goals and put it away."
Jack Eichel (Chelmsford, Mass./U.S. National Under-18 Team) put the U.S. on the board at 16:53 of the first period when he beat Slovakia goaltender Richard Sabol from between the circles. Will Butcher (Sun Prairie, Wis./University of Denver) found Ryan Hartman (West Dundee, Ill.), who entered the offensive zone with speed along the wall. As Hartman moved just inside the blue line, he dished the puck left to Eichel for a quick shot five hole.
Dan O'Regan (Needham, Mass./Boston University) doubled the Team USA lead with a marker off a rebound as time expired in the opening frame. From the left circle, Matt Grzelcyk (Charlestown, Mass./Boston University) put a shot towards the net that bounced off a Slovak player and right to O'Regan for a wide-open chance.
Hartman increased the lead to 3-0 just 4:22 into the middle frame. Butcher picked up the puck in the left circle and took it into the high slot before leaving a perfect drop pass for Hartman at the left dot, where Hartman one-timed the feed just over Sabol's blocker.
Slovakia battled back in the latter portion of the middle stanza, striking for a pair of goals with the man-advantage to cut Team USA's lead to 3-2 going into the third period.
Back-and-forth action led to numerous scoring chances for both teams in the first 10 minutes of the final frame before Grzelcyk managed to bat home a bouncing puck midway through the frame to give the U.S. a 4-2 edge. Connor Carrick (Orland Park, Ill.) fired a point shot wide of the net, but it caromed directly onto Grzelcyk's stick at the left edge of the crease. Grzelcyk settled the puck and slid it into the open net before Sabol could recover.
Stefan Matteau (Chicago, Ill.) took a feed from Andrew Copp (Ann Arbor, Mich./University of Michigan) and fired a shot into the top corner at 14:15 to give Team USA a three-goal cushion, and Riley Barber (Pittsburgh, Pa./Miami University) made it 6-2 just two minutes later when he tapped a back-door pass from Copp between Sabol's leg and the right post.
Slovakia scored a late goal to close the scoring.
The U.S. National Junior Team will continue preliminary round action tomorrow (Dec. 29) when it plays Germany at 9:00 a.m. ET. The contest can be viewed live on NHL Network and on NHL.com.
NOTES: Matt Grzelcyk was named the U.S. Player of the Game ... The U.S. has medaled in three of the last four IIHF World Junior Championships, including gold in 2013 and 2010 and bronze in 2011 ... Don Lucia (Plymouth, Minn.), head coach of the University of Minnesota men's ice hockey team, is the head coach of the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team. Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn.), head coach of the St. Cloud State University men's ice hockey team, Greg Brown (Scituate, Mass.), associate head coach of the Boston College men's ice hockey team, and David Lassonde (Denver, Colo.), assistant coach of the University of Denver men's ice hockey team, are the assistant coaches. Dan Muse (Clinton, Conn.), assistant coach of Yale University's men's ice hockey team, is serving as the team's video coordinator... Jim Johannson (Colorado Springs, Colo.), USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is serving as the general manager of Team USA for the fifth consecutive year ... Don Waddell (Detroit, Mich.), an international consultant to USA Hockey, is assisting with player identification for Team USA ... The U.S. is competing in a group with Canada, Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.