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Game Day: USA vs. Slovakia (Quarterfinal Round)

By USA Hockey, 04/24/14, 3:45AM EDT


Today's Contest

The U.S. National Under-18 Team faces Slovakia in the quarterfinals at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship. Game time is slated for 6 a.m. EDT at Lappeenranta Arena in Finland.

Team USA finished preliminary play with a record of 3-0-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L). After falling to Switzerland, 4-2, in its opening game (April 17), the U.S. earned three victories to claim the first seed in Group B. Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove, Minn.) and Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) helped stake a 2-1 lead for the Americans heading into the third with Switzerland before surrendering three unanswered goals in the third period. In the squad's game against the Czech Republic on April 19, Alex Nedeljkovic (Parma, Ohio) stopped all 24 shots he faced to help blank the opposition, 4-0. Team USA then held Denmark to just eight shots on net, and recorded its second straight shutout, 7-0, on April 20. Eichel paced the offense with two goals and one assist. Eichel once again played hero in the final prelim game versus host country Finland, scoring with just over one minute remaining in the third period to give the U.S. a 4-3 victory.

Slovakia advanced to the quarterfinals as a four seed with a 1-0-1-2 in Group A. The Slovaks earned a point in its first game, a 4-3 overtime loss to Russia on April 17, before besting Germany, 4-1, the next day (April 18). Slovakia followed that victory with back-to-back defeats at the hands of Canada (2-1, April 20) and Sweden (6-2, April 21).

Slovakia most recently played in the U18 World Championship in the 2013 relegation round against Latvia. After finishing with a record of 0-0-0-4, the Slovaks would go on to win back-to-back contests with Latvia, 5-2 on April 25th, 2013 and 3-2 on April 26th, 2013. Slovakia was promoted from Division I in 2012 after being relegated in 2011.

In other quarterfinal action, Sweden faces Finland in Lappeenranta, while the Czech Republic battles Russia and Canada takes on Switzerland in Imatra.

Match-Up History

This will be the ninth meeting between the two countries in the IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship. Team USA is 6-0-0-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L) all-time versus Slovakia in this tournament. The U.S. has outscored the Slovaks, 48-18, in the series.

Team USA's most recent triumph was an 8-1 win in a preliminary-round contest at the 2011 U18 World Championship in Crimmitschau, Germany. Rocco Grimaldi (Rossmoor, Calif.) and Robbie Russo (Westmont, Ill.) had one goal and two assists each, and eight different players potted goals in the win on April 15, 2011.

News and Notes

  • The American power play is 2-18 (11.1%), while Slovakia is 1-15 (6.7%) ... The U.S. penalty kill is a perfect 9-9 (100.0%), while Slovakia has given up six power-play goals in 26 attempts against (76.9%) ... Slovakia has three shorthanded markers for and one against ... Slovakia is the most penalized team (21:15 average per game) in the tournament through the preliminary round. Team USA has taken only 10 minor penalties in three games for an average of 5:00 per game, fewest in the tournament.
  • Sonny Milano has at least one point in all four preliminary-round games, including two goals and four assists. He ranks tied for seventh in tournament points. Factoring in the pre-tournament game versus Germany, the forward has nine points (4-5) in five games.
  • Kyle Connor holds a four-game scoring streak, netting one goal in each of Team USA's preliminary round games, placing him tied for second in the tournament in goals scored. The Youngstown Phantoms product also scored in the pre-tournament contest against Germany.
  • Jack Eichel is riding a three-game point streak after being held without a point in the first preliminary round game versus Switzerland. The forward has three goals and two assists over that span.
  • Auston Matthews is also enjoying a three-game point streak. The forward has netted one goal and collected two assists in games against the Czech Republic, Denmark and Finland.
  • Noah Hanifin ranks tied for second in points among defensemen in the tournament. The blueliner has one goal and three assists in four games.
  • Slovakia's roster features three players recently named on NHL Central Scouting's list of top draft-eligible players for 2014. Defensemen Christian Jaros (119th) and Ladislav Romancik (136th) were tabbed along with forward Matej Palocko (128th).
  • The average height of Team Slovakia is 6-1, while the average weight is 179 pounds.
  • Host country Finland is averaging 3,424 fans per game, followed by the United States (1,920) and the Czech Republic (1,722).
  • Follow @USAHockeyScores on Twitter for live scoring updates during the tournament. Scores will be designated with the #U18Worlds tag.
  • For additional coverage, visit the NTDP Facebook page and follow @USANTDP on Twitter.

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