As U.S. president Joe Biden likes to say: "America is back." The host nation rebounded from its Day One overtime loss to Russia by edging Germany 5-3 on Tuesday at Comerica Center. It was a hard-fought battle, and the newly promoted Germans refused to go away quietly.
Ty Gallagher set the pace offensively for the U.S. with two power play goals.
“That's great to get the first win, especially after a tough loss last night,” said Gallagher. “It's great for the boys to bounce back. And it's a long tournament, so we're looking to battle the rest of the tournament.”
Despite giving up seven goals to the Russians, U.S. netminder Gibson Homer got his second consecutive start under head coach Dan Muse and made 25 saves. Newcomer Simon Wolf got the nod from German coach Steffen Ziesche and recorded 37 saves.
History suggested luck likely wouldn’t be on Germany’s side ultimately in this tilt. The U.S. entered the game with an U18 Worlds record of six wins and two losses against their opponents, including a perfect preliminary-round record of four wins.
“My team gave everything they had today,” said Ziesche. “We are disappointed, but we can learn something. I don’t think the Americans expected how hard we would work through 60 minutes.”
This was the best game Germany has had against the Americans since beating them way back in 2000 (3-1) and 2001 (2-1). The Germans took another step forward psychologically at these U18 Worlds after falling 3-1 to the Czechs in their first game.
“It shows that we have a really good team, but yeah, we don’t have any points,” said German captain Bennet Rossmy. “Next game, that’s Russia. We will play better and we will get some points.”
At 9:29, Jack Hughes – no relation to his famous namesake with the New Jersey Devils – got the Americans going, snapping up a loose puck in the left faceoff circle and firing it home for a 1-0 lead.
The U.S.’s skill and speed shone on the 2-0 power-play marker at 16:31. Isaac Howard rushed the puck deep into the German end before pulling up and finding Aidan Hreschuk at the blue line. Hreschuk fed it left to Ty Gallagher, who made no mistake with his one-timer.
The Germans got into penalty trouble when Malte Krenzlin was assessed a two-minute minor and 10-misconduct for a check to the head and neck area. But they had a response. Kevin Niedenz, who was tabbed to serve the minor, came out of the box and joined an odd-man rush, converting the rebound from Roman Zap’s shot to make it 2-1 with 0:39 left in the period.
In the second period, the Germans managed to slow the pace and clog up the ice. Sasha Pastujov gave the U.S. some breathing space at 12:40 with his second U18 Worlds goal when he jammed in a rebound at the side of the net for a 3-1 lead.
The Germans stayed hungry. When stick fouls sent Hughes and Gallagher to the box back-to-back, Rossmy made them pay with a 5-on-3 goal, sniping one in off both posts at 18:18.
“On the blue line, Julian Lutz got the puck and just put it on my stick,” Rossmy said. “I watched the goalie, and he was standing a little bit more to the right. There was one D. I just shot it off the far post and it went in. I was really happy.”
The U.S. penalty problems continued in the third period, with captain Red Savage heading off for cross-checking just 30 seconds in, but this time the Germans couldn't take advantage.
At 7:35, the towering Charlie Stramel put the U.S. up 4-2 with a breakaway goal, maintaining his focus as German defenders lunged with sticks and scoring on the forehand. Seconds later, Wolf had to be sharp to stop Logan Cooley on yet another breakaway.
Of Stramel's goal, Gallagher said: "That was a big momentum swing in the game."
With less than 10 minutes left, Germany's Robin van Calster picked off an errant U.S. pass in the slot and rang off the post. At 11:48, his teammate Sebastian Cimmerman beat Homer cleanly to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Germany then came within a hair's breadth of tying it up when Niedens tapped the puck right through the crease behind Homer. However, on a late man advantage, Gallagher whiffed on his shot and it bounced in off a German blueliner for a 5-3 lead with 3:11 left. Auf Wiedersehen!
"As you go through a tournament like this, you've got to find different ways to win," said Muse. "We found a way tonight, and that's something to build off of."
All in all, this was a drastic improvement for the Germans over the last time these countries met in 2015, a 13-1 American victory.
On Thursday, the Germans will try for their first 2021 win against Russia, while the Americans face the Czech Republic.