United States 10, Switzerland 1
New York (The Draft Analyst) — Auston Matthews had two goals and two assists as the United States used eight different goal scorers to cruise to a 10-1 rout of Switzerland in Wednesday’s preliminary round action from the world junior hockey championship in Helsinki.
The United States (2-1) moved ahead of Canada into second place in Group A. Sweden, which defeated the Americans on Monday, clinched the group’s top spot earlier in the day with a 5-0 win over Denmark.
The United States’ rested offense, which was stymied by Sweden in a 1-0 loss, wasted no time against the tired Swiss, who were coming off Tuesday’s emotional 3-2 shootout loss to Canada. Christian Dvorak and Matthews scored 63 seconds apart before the midway point of the first period to give the United States a 2-0 lead. Defenseman Brandon Carlo made it 3-0 at with 9:47 left in the first when his wrist shot floated over the glove of goalie Joren van Pottelberghe, who had played well in the loss to the Canadians. Goals by defenseman Zach Werenski, Matt Tkachuk and Nick Schmaltz closed out a six-goal opening frame and forced van Pottelberghe out of the game.
Tkachuk and Matthews, who are both expected to be top picks in the 2016 draft, each scored their second goal of the game in the second period, and Massachusetts natives Colin White and Ryan Donato each scored a goal to give the United States a commanding 10-1 lead after two.
Werenski, Dvorak and White all finished with a goal and two assists apiece. Tkachuk also chipped in an assist as Team USA had seven players record at least two points, and 11 of 18 skaters with at least one point.
Alex Nedeljkovic made seven saves to pick up the win before he was replaced by Brandon Halverson, who stopped all 20 shots he faced. Team USA went 1 for 7 on the power play. They can clinch second place in their group with a win versus Denmark on Thursday, or if Canada loses to Sweden.
Timo Meier scored the lone goal for the Swiss — the first in four tournament games for the ninth overall pick in last June’s draft. Switzerland is eliminated from the playoff round and must defeat Belarus in the relegation round to receive a return invitation to the 2017 tournament.
C AUSTON MATTHEWS (2016 Draft eligible/1997): It took a little more than two games for Matthews and Matt Tkachuk to rekindle the chemistry they had last year with the NTDP. For whatever reason, they just weren’t on the same page in games against Canada and Sweden, which may in fact be the answer right there — the Swiss don’t defend or prepare like the Canadians and Swedes. Matthews clearly identified this from the onset, as he attacked every gap presented to him. He took an elbow to the head from Timo Meier, and for a second there was concern that he may not return. When he did, however, he set up Tkachuk for a goal off the rush, and everything kind of took off from there. He did have a rare brain fart as he collected a loose puck to the left of his own goal and skated right in front of the net, where the Swiss took control and Meier slam-dunked a centering feed from Nico Hischier. If there was a signature play, it was in the first period when he toyed with Swiss defenseman Marco Forrer for about 10 seconds, going behind-the-back with control of the puck before curling back towards the circle for Tkachuk to tip the puck in.
LW MATT TKACHUK (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): It wasn’t a pretty start to the tournament for Tkachuk, and we already explained that the quality of competition and their familiarity with him probably had something to do with it. Against the Swiss, Tkachuk had an extra gear, as he was attacking the puck and winning his battles. The one constant was Tkachuk’s willingness to get to the net and stay there, which was a problem against the bigger, more mature Swedish defenders. Tkachuk is a world-class playmaker, which almost gets lost when discussing how great a finisher as he is to flank a set-up guy of Matthews’ caliber. Expect much of the same against the Danes on Thursday, but we want to see a big game against a formidable opponent. Today was a good start towards getting there.
C COLIN WHITE (Ottawa 1st/2015): White was the beneficiary of ice time on Team USA’s top line, and he made Ron Wilson look like a genius with a three-point night, including a shorthanded goal. White’s always had a reputation as a clutch player, but he’s doesnt get enough credit for being a team-first workaholic who leads by example. His powerful zone entry followed by a drop pass to Tkachuk led to Auston Matthews’ first goal from in front of the net. On Matthews’ second marker, I’m pretty sure his soft touch pass to Nick Schmaltz from White’s covered slot position to the top of the left circle was completely done on purpose. He later initiated a 2-on-1 while shorthanded, then finished the play off by smacking a wobbly cross-ice feed into the back of the net.
RW BROCK BOESER (Vancouver 1st/2015): Let’s be honest — the Brock Boeser experiment on the top line didn’t go as well as Wilson probably thought it would, as the Vancouver first rounder is having a tough time with shot selection and converting. One assist and six shots on goal through three games isn’t cutting it, and that’s because his play before the tournament was nothing short of exemplary. But in Helsinki (for example), he’s firing pucks into the skates of opponents and staying to the outside of the faceoff circles. Against the Swiss, he played on a line with Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hitchcock — a trio which made several nice plays, including one where Boeser made a heady flip over the neutral zone to Hitchcock, who won a puck battler to set up Schmaltz for a tap in. Boeser was also robbed of a goal as well, so maybe getting his name on the scoresheet will help him get out of what’s turned out to be a mini scoring funk.