KOSICE – The United States scored twice in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and coasted to a 3-2 win tonight at Steel Arena to move into a tie for second place with Sweden in Group F with seven points.
Both teams trail Canada (10 points), but the U.S. is now in an excellent position to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2009. France is now eliminated from playoff participation.
United States vs. France (1-1, 2-0, 0-0) Game Sheet Photos
The strong second period was keyed by goals from captain Mark Stuart and collegian Chris Kreider. Stuart was the trailer on an odd-man rush and took a perfect pass from Chris Porter skating down the right wing before drilling a shot past goalie Cristobal Huet.
Kreider was in the slot when he was the recipient of a nice pass from behind the net from Andy Miele, the team’s newest addition playing in his first ever game in a U.S. sweater at any level.
"It felt great," Miele said. "I've been waiting to get the chance. I think I played pretty well, and I hope they keep me in here. If not, I'll be there to cheer them on. I'm here to help win a medal. The craziest thing was just walking into the locker room and seeing the jersey sitting at my stall. I had to turn it around to see if my name was on it, to see if it was real. I might sleep in it tonight. I hope I have the chance to wear it again."
Huet was the main reason the score was close. The Americans outshot France decisively, 38-22, and Huet was rock solid. The game also featured 21 minor penalties, eleven to France.
The first period was eventful if not a little strange. Both teams scored goals while playing 4-on-4, and in a matter of 67 seconds teams took too many men penalties when there were clearly six players on the ice and in the play. In all, there were nine minors in the opening period, five to France.
Sacha Treille opened the scoring at 5:25 on a harmless-looking play. Skating over the blueline and three Americans between him and the goal, he let go a long wrist shot that fooled Ty Conklin, beating him to the far side.
The U.S. tied the game late in the period off a nice passing play, Blake Wheeler finding Derek Stepan to the back side of the play. Stepan drilled the one timer past a helpless Huet.
"We didn't come out with a great start," acknowledged captain Stuart, "but they played really hard. Their lives were on the line this game, and they gave us everything we could handle in the first period. We were able to come back in the second and play a little better."
Laurent Meunier made the ending interesting when his one-timer from the top of the circle crept through Conklin's pads late in the game to make it 3-2. But with Huet on the bench, there was to be no tying goal or surprise ending.
"I was disappointed in the third, that we didn't bury them by getting a few more goals, but we came away with the win," Stuart added.
The French were simply outclassed, unable to penetrate the larger and stronger American defence and unable to test Conklin with many quality chances. They will still be in Finland/Sweden next year, but their tournament has only one more game in it this year.
The Americans close out their Qualification Round with a Monday game against Switzerland while France hooks up with Norway earlier in the day.