KOSICE – One year ago the USA opened the 2010 IIHF World Championship with a 2-1 overtime loss to Germany. They weren’t about to get caught out on opening day this year.USA – Austria 5-1 (2-0, 1-1, 2-0) Game Sheet Photos
It was close, and entertaining, in the early going but the USA put it away with a surge late in the second period that carried them to a 5-1 victory.
For two teams from living in different neighbourhoods in the hockey world - IIHF Official World Rankings had USA at 6 and Austria at 14 heading into the tournament – the first part of the game was closer than many expected. That said, the American team wasn’t taking anyone lightly.
“They’re a very resilient team and a very talented team”, said US forward Chris Kreider. “They put in a really good showing when we saw them in an exhibition game before the tournament so we weren’t surprised.”
“We saw them a couple of games ago [during pre-tournament action] and they seemed a little flatter,” said veteran Austrian defenceman Darcy Werenka. “But they came out here today and they were flying. The tempo was way higher.”
The USA opened the scoring ay 14:42 of the first when Kreider broke in on the right hand side, dropped his left shoulder and drove past Austrian defenceman Gerhard Unterluggauer and headed to the net from a sharp angle. Netminder Jurgen Penker left just enough room on the short side for Kreider to jam it in.
The second USA goal came 2:33 later from a sharp angle off to Penker’s right. Derek Stepan put a pass on the tape down low to Blake Wheeler, who fired it quickly past Penker to make it 2-0 for the Americans.
The best chance for the Austrians came at 11:02 of the second period, when American Mark Stuart took a delay of the game penalty to give Austria a two-man advantage for 1:18. They had several chances – the best being Werenka’s blast from just above the left hash marks – but they just couldn’t score.
Frustrated, but apparently not finished after the squandered power play chance, Marco Pewal found the left corner behind US goalie Al Montoya with a wrist shot from the slot with six minutes to go in the second period.
That seemed to open the door just a crack for the Austrians and they attempted to pile in. Forty seconds after Pewal’s goal, Phillipp Lukas had a chance to tie it when he found himself wide open from the right circle in. He blasted the shot wide.
The Americans then got the break they needed with 1:24 remaining in the period when the puck came off the boards and out to the left of Penker to an open Yan Stastny. He pulled the puck to his forehand and stuffed it in the open net and it was 3-1 for the USA.
Kevin Shattenkirk added one more at 2:27 of the third period to make it 4-1 for the USA and you could almost hear the Austrian sails dropping and the collective sigh of the couple of thousand Austrian supporters in the building.
Craig Smith rounded out the scoring with a power play goal for the USA at 16:42 of the third.