Three Penguins prospects and four local Pittsburghers will be taking part in the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.
Pens prospects playing are Scott Harrington (Canada), Olli Maatta (Finland) and Teddy Blueger (Latvia). Pittsburgh born or trained players suiting up for Team USA are John Gibson, J.T. Miller, Vince Trocheck and Riley Barber.
Check back for updates throughout the tournament. A schedule of pertinent games can be found at the bottom of the blog; for a full schedule of games click here. Pittsburgh's own Steve Mears will be calling all the Team USA games, which will be broadcast live on NHL Network and live streamed on NHL.com.
WEDNESDAY, JAN. 2
|John Gibson (USA Hockey/HHOF IIHF Images on Ice)|
Mearsy and E.J. Hradek give their analysis:
Miller showcases his vertical as a point shot glances in off his skate to give Team USA a 7-0 lead:
Gibson flashes some leather with a great glove save on Tomas Hertl:
MONDAY, DEC. 31
The Pittsburgh kids had a big part in helping Team USA to a 9-3 win over Slovakia today, which means the Americans are advancing to the quarterfinal! The U.S. will face the Czech Republic on Wednesday.
Vince Trocheck (Upper St. Clair) has been solid for the U.S. all tournament, especially in shorthanded situations. Today he was rewarded on the scoresheet with two goals and an assist. J.T. Miller (Coraopolis) posted two assists. And not only did John Gibson (Whitehall) make 26 saves in the contest – he also got a helper of his own.
Canada defeated Russia 4-1, making them a perfect 4-0 in the preliminary round. That means Scott Harrington and the Canadians get a bye for the quarterfinal round and will advance straight to the semifinals on Thursday, where they will face the winner of Wednesday's USA/Czech Republic matchup.
Olli Maatta returned to the lineup for Finland's game against Sweden today after sitting out Saturday's contest against Switzerland with an illness. But the Finns fell to the defending champions, 7-4, which means they are out of medal contention. They'll play Germany in the relegation round on Wednesday.
Final note: Teddy Blueger's Latvia lost to the Czech Republic, 4-2, on Sunday. Latvia will face Germany in the relegation round on Friday.
SATURDAY, DEC. 29
A few updates from Saturday competition in the WJC...
FRIDAY, DEC. 28
Scott Harrington and Canada took care of business with a 6-3 win against Slovakia. His London teammate wasn't as lucky. Olli Maatta's Finland dropped a 3-1 game to Czech Republic.
Whitehall, Pa.'s John Gibson will get the start in goal for Team USA as they battle Team Russia at 9 a.m. today. The game, as all of USA's games, will be aired live on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com. Stay here for various updates throughout the contest...
Not a whole lot to report from the first 20 minutes. USA was pressuring hard in the opening minutes. If not for a brilliant split, toe save by Andrei Makarov on a 3-on-1, America would have struck early. But seconds after that dramatic save, Russia went on a power play and made the Americans pay. Albert Yarullin ripped a slap shot that appeared to change direction several times in Matrix style to elude Gibson.
Gibson responded well to the early goal. He was solid for the remainder of the period and has been under fire with Team USA taking four penalties (one was against Gibson for tripping). The Americans are lucky to have escaped the first period trailing only 1-0. They've got to show better discipline and stay out of the box or else Russia may run away with this contest.
Team USA comes through with a clutch power-play goal to tie this game after 40 minutes at 1-1. USA did some masterful work on the man-advantage halfway through the second. Their puck movement was crisp and they were able to gain quick possession on loose, bouncing pucks. USA kept the puck in the zone the entire sequence and it paid off when Jacob Trouba's one-timer hurried past Makarov and into the goal.
Gibson had another strong period. He was a rock in net for America, especially late when the Russians were creating opportunities and gaining momentum. Gibson's best save though came three minutes into the middle frame on a breakaway shot.
There was a scary moment in the contest when Pavel Koledov was hit in the face with the puck. He was down on the ice for a while and in visible pain. Thankfully, he was able to shake it off and get back into the game.
(Side note: I love the cheerleaders in neon dresses. Nice touch Ufa).
It was a thrilling finish to an excellent game, but the Russians triumphed, 2-1. The winning goal was the result of an impressive play by Valeri Nichushkin, who carried the puck from his own end, around the low circle and toward the net. His shot was stopped by Gibson, but Vladimir Tkachyov found the rebound to slammed it into the net.
Team USA had a great opportunity on a power play with just 1:32 left in regulation after Kirill Kapustin cross checked Blake Pietila in the corner. But USA couldn't capitalize and the Russians pulled out the win.
Gibson put in another stellar performance in goal for Team USA. He made 28 saves in the contest and had a crucial breakaway stop with just 2:44 left in the third period to keep the Americans in the game.
Mears and EJ Hradek give their take from Russia's 2-1 victory against Team USA. They praise Gibson and preview USA-Canada.
THURSDAY, DEC. 27
Team USA will be playing Team Germany at 9 a.m. this morning. The game will be broadcast on NHL Network and live streamed on NHL.com with Steve Mears calling the play-by-play. I'll be posting some observations from my office at CONSOL Energy Center. Stay tuned...
Team USA completely dominated the first 20 minutes of play. They lead 3-0 on goals by Sean Kuraly, Jacob Trouba and Alex Galchenyuk. Pittsburgh's Riley Barber has two assists in the game (assisting on linemates Kuraly and Galchenyuk's goals).
Whitehall, Pa. native John Gibson is between the pipes for USA. He's stopped all nine pucks thrown his way. In fact, the only rubber the Germans managed to get into the American goal was when Huba Sekesi slam dunked a puck into the goal. Gibson made a save and the puck popped into the air. Sekesi grabbed it and tossed it into the net. The referees (aware that the teams are playing hockey and not basketball) waved off the goal.
Team USA had a major territorial advantage in the first period. America's rush play has been particularly impressive. The Germans appear to be backing off hard, afraid of USA's speed. The result is a lot of open ice. Even in the defensive zone, Germany is collapsing around their goal. America is exploiting that strategy by generating scoring chances in the high slot. Galchenyuk's goal - which was a lethal snipe of speed and precision - came in that exact location.
The second period was more of the same from the first period. USA extended their lead to 6-0 with another three-goal burst. Tallying for the Americans were Barber (his third point of the game), Shayne Gostisbehere and Ryan Hartman.
Barber was the beneficiary of some diligent work by Galchenyuk, who hounded a German defender in behind the net. Galchenyuk had the defenseman trapped behind the goal and unable to escape in the opening minute of the middle frame. After the blueliner lost his edge, Galchenyuk stole the puck and found Barber in the slot. Game. Set. Match. Goal.
USA connected on a power-play goal from Gostisbehere, who lit up a one-timer from the near point. He was aided by a brilliant screen from J.T. Miller. The Coraopolis, Pa. native was perfectly positioned in front of netminder Marvin Cupper, who didn't see the puck until after it had rimmed around the twine.
Gibson, who could have taken extended naps during most of the game, was very impressive during a sequence of German power plays. Deutschland had a two-man advantage for 1:39 seconds, but came up with nothing thanks to Gibson. The Germans tried to take advantage of the open ice with some cross-ice connections. Gibson showed solid lateral movement, going side-to-side with ease and squaring up perfectly to each shot. He even lost his stick at one point, but that didn't deter him from his task. Gibson has 19 saves through 40 minutes.
USA adds two more goals in the final period to secure an 8-0 victory. Miller and Seth Jones picked up the goals for America. Goalie Jon Gillies played the final 20 minutes in net. His seven saves paired with Gibson's 19 helped Team USA complete the shutout.
Miller's goal was a beauty. Germany was having trouble handling the puck in their own zone. Miller picked Frederik Tiffels' pocket and was one-on-one with goaltender Cupper. Miller made 30-ish dekes with the puck before stuffing it through the five-hole for the score. Miller was also a physical presence in the game with some solid hits throughout.
Barber finished the game strong. He didn't get back on the scoreboard, but he had two marvelous opportunities. One occured on a shorthanded breakaway. Barber used a burst of speed to get around Stephan Kronthaler. His shot was stopped, but he crashed the net hard. Late in the third Barber had another chance in the slot that was turned aside.
Galchenyuk was named player of the game for USA with a goal and two assists.
Gibson spoke with NHL Network following the game...
One final note from USA's 8-0 win against Germany shared by Mears and EJ Hradek.
WEDNESDAY, DEC. 26
Team USA finalized their tournament roster with four Pittsburghers officially making the team. J.T. Miller and John Gibson are returning for their second WJC while Vince Trocheck and Riley Barber are making their tournament debuts.
Team Canada opened the WJC with a 9-3 victory over Germany. Pens prospect Scott Harrington registered an assist and plus-3 rating in the contest. Meanwhile, Finland topped Latvia, 5-1. Olli Maatta (Finland) posted a plus-1 rating and Teddy Blueger (Latvia) went scoreless.
NHL.com put together a video piece on Miller (the highest-ever drafted Pittsburgh-grown player when the NY Rangers selected him 15th overall in 2011). Miller is serving as an alternate captain for Team USA.
Here is a schedule of games with teams featuring Pens prospects and Pittsburgh-grown players.
Finland vs. Latvia, 2:30 a.m.
Canada vs. Germany, 4:30 a.m.
Latvia vs. Switzerland, 7:00 a.m.
Germany vs. USA, 9:00 a.m.
Czech Republic vs. Finland, 2:30 a.m.
Slovakia vs. Canada, 4:30 a.m.
USA vs. Russia, 9:00 a.m.
Sweden vs. Latvia, 7:00 a.m.
Switzerland vs. Finland, 2:30 a.m.
USA vs. Canada, 4:30 a.m.
Latvia vs. Czech Republic, 7:00 a.m.
Slovakia vs. USA, 5:00 a.m.
Finland vs. Sweden, 7:00 a.m.
Canada vs. Russia, 9:00 a.m.
Playoff games will be played Jan. 2-4 with the gold medal game taking place Jan. 5.
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