HELSINKI Ė Beating Germany 3-0 on Sunday, the United States booked its ticket for the 2013 quarter-finals. The Americans scored two first-period goals and never looked back as 19-year-old goalie John Gibson earned his first World Championship shutout.
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Sitting first overall in the Helsinki group, the Americans control their own destiny and can clinch top spot with a win over Slovakia on Tuesday.
The Americans haven't won a World Championship tournament since 1933, but that doesn't faze U.S. captain Paul Stastny.
"History is against everybody all the time," said Stastny. "We want to change history. We want to live in the present. The next game is big. Last year we lost to Slovakia. We know that if we win, we get that one seed and we'll play the four seed, and that'd be important."
The Germans, with seven points, have one game left against France on Tuesday. Slovak losses to Russia and the United States would help the German cause.
"We've looked at the standings, and since we couldn't get the points from this game, we'll have to try to get them against France and hope we can make the quarterfinal," said Germany's Yannic Seidenberg.
Bobby Butler, Paul Stastny, and Stephen Gionta scored for the United States. Final shots on gold favoured Germany 30-29.
There were lots of promising 19-year-olds entering and exiting the U.S. lineup for this tilt at a packed Hartwall Arena.
Gibson, the MVP of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, received his second tournament start from head coach Joe Sacco after beating host Finland 4-1 in his opener. Again, he played like a seasoned veteran.
"The team's playing really well in front of me and they make my job a lot easier," said Gibson. "Whenever I leave a rebound or something, they're there to help me out."
Montreal Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk, the son of former Soviet and Belarus national team player Alexander Galchenyuk, participated in the warmup but did not play. Like Gibson, Galchenyuk won a gold medal with the Americans at the World Juniors in Ufa, Russia.
Their fellow 19-year-old World Junior teammate, all-star defenceman Jacob Trouba, sat this one out.
In the German net, Dennis Endras got the call, giving Rob Zepp the evening off. Zepp had posted consecutive 2-0 shutouts over Austria and Latvia.
Ranked second in the tournament in power play percentage (35%) before this game, the Americans worked the puck around effectively on their first man advantage. At 2:39, Bobby Butler, stationed in front, banged in the loose puck after Justin Faulk's center point blast went off his skate.
It didnít take long for the U.S. to go up 2-0. Defenceman Erik Johnson executed a nice rush to the net, and then fed the puck out front to Stastny, who forced Endras to make a lunging save and then put the rebound in high at 4:53. It was Stastny's fourth goal of the tournament.
With just over five minutes left in the first, Aaron Palushaj missed a chance to put the Americans up by three when he got a breakaway but shot high and wide on a backhand attempt.
The second period started quietly, apart from a big Gionta hit on German blueliner Benedikt Kohl behind Endrasís net.
The German offence was sputtering, and Gibson had some puck luck on his side. Halfway through the period on a German power play, Michael Wolf had a golden opportunity on a one-timer at Gibsonís right post, but put it off the side of the net. Philip Gogulla slid another chance through the goalieís legs but wide of the net on the rush.
Palushaj stayed snake-bitten on clear breaks. Approaching the 13-minute mark of the second, he got another breakaway, but was hacked by Patrick Hager and couldnít score. On the ensuing penalty shot, he lofted a forehand over the net.
With 8:33 left in the third period, the Americans made it 3-0. Matt Hunwick let one fly from the left point, and Nate Thompson put the rebound through an outstretched Endras to Gionta, who flung it into the gaping net.
U.S. assistant captain Nate Thompson took a late elbowing penalty, but the Germans couldn't take advantage of their chance to break Gibson's goose egg. The goalie twice stymied Marcel Goc from close range to make sure of that.
"Gibson was unbelievable again, like he was against Finland," said Stastny. "He gave us a chance to win."