USA rolls past Hungary
by Andy Potts|14 MAY 2023
USA captain Nick Bonino (#13, first from left) scores his first goal in the Americans' victory over Hungary at the IIHF World Championship in Tampere, Finland.
Team USA stays perfect in Tampere after a 7-1 win over Hungary. However, the Americans did not immediately overwhelm an unfancied opponent and had to come from behind to subdue Kevin Constantine’s spirited Hungarians.

For a moment, there was a chance of a sensational result. Neither current form nor hockey history gave Hungary much hope of a result against the USA, yet four minutes into Sunday’s opening game in Tampere, the Magyars led 1-0.

"They took it to us in the first five or 10 minutes," said America's Alex Tuch. "They caught us by surprise a little bit. We can't get off to shaky starts like that against any team in this tournament because you never know what might happen, but I thought when we got back to our game we closed out a nice victory."

The opening goal came after Istvan Bartalis got a breakaway chance and fired narrowly wide. The U.S. defence did not heed the warning, and failed to clear the danger. That enabled Bence Szabo to take control of the second phase and pick out Istvan Sofron all alone at the back door for his second goal of the tournament. Jubilation for the Hungarian fans, and a Sunday brunch alarm call for the Americans.

"[Istvan's] very hot right now," said captain Gergo Nagy of his team's scorer. "We're looking forward to keeping him hot for the rest of the tournament. He and Bence Szabo have some real good chemistry. Both our goals were assisted by Sabo and scored by Sofron. So it looks like that duo works, and hopefully a couple more goals are going to go in on Tuesday."

Getting up on a higher-ranked opponent is one thing. Hungary’s next task was to protect that lead. Unfortunately, the Hungarian defence handed the Americans a path back into the game within a couple of minutes. Janos Hari attempted to play the puck out from the corner, but succeeding in gifting possession to Rocco Grimaldi in front of the net. Milan Horvath threw himself across Grimaldi’s shooting lane, but the rebound went back to the American. He spread the play to Tuch, who buried the chance to make it 1-1.

Hungary continued to create chances in an even contest. Cal Petersen needed his radar in full working order to pouch a Bartalis effort that flew at him through a screen.

At the other end, though, Grimaldi was a constant menace. Ever alert, he pounced on another wayward clearance late in the frame, burned past two defenders and got to the goal line. Grimaldi’s pull back offered Nick Bonino the perfect chance to go top shelf from right in front of Dominik Horvath’s net and the USA took a 2-1 lead to the intermission.

After an uncomfortable first period, the Americans looked to put the game to bed as quickly as possible in the second. There was an early chance for Matt Coronato on the breakaway, followed by Carter Mazur clipping the post from the rebound. Then, on the game’s first power play, Bonino was credited with his second of the game. Admittedly, this was far from the clean finish of his first: Connor Garland found the captain on the slot and as he looked to turn and shoot for goal, the puck skidded into a Hungarian skate and over the line.

"We got better and better," Bonino said. "Obviously they played really hard and it was not the start we wanted. But it was a game and I thought we responded well. As the game went on, we started to tilt the ice more, got to the front of the net more, and we were rewarded for it."

Hungary’s offence was rarely seen, but the lively Bartalis almost snaffled a short-handed goal midway through the frame. But back at equal strength, the Hungarians fell further behind when Cutter Gauthier raced onto Coronato’s chipped pass and slipped his second goal of the tournament through Horvath’s five-hole. Not for the first time here, the American college connection repaid the faith shown by USA Hockey's selectors.

"I've had a couple bounces come my way in the past couple days," said Gauthier of his scoring start. "That's what we've been working on so far and I plan to keep doing it."

Two goals at the start of the third saw Connor Mackey and Grimaldi on the scoresheet. Grimaldi’s first tally of the tournament was well-deserved after picking up three assists through two games.

"You play against the best in the world, right? So they just play on a higher level," reflected Nagy. "I guess we just going to forget this one and then bounce back on Tuesday because we're going to have a big one. Learn from the things that we didn't accomplish." 

The final word went to another of the American youngsters. Luke Tuch, whose elder brother Alex tied the game back in the first, celebrated his World Championship debut with the seventh goal.
United States vs Hungary - 2023 IIHF WM