Team USA took a 6-0 lead in the first period over Latvia, leaving the outcome of the game much like the one the plucky but overmatched Eastern Europeans played against Canada in the tournament's opener.
One thing that underscored how lopsided the matchup is occurred when Tyler Johnson, an undrafted and undersized player who skates for the WHL's Spokane Chiefs, his hometown team, scored with less than 20 seconds after Latvia had given up a power play goal to Chris Kreider with 1:02 remaining in the period. The Latvian goalie appeared to have it covered, staying square to the shooter as Johnson came at him with speed, but at the last moment, the netminder lost his angle and Johnson fired a high backhander past him on the short side.
Kreider, one of my favorites from last year's draft, scored a sweet power play goal off of a one-timer in the slot to make it 5-0, Yanks. Montreal prospect Danny Kristo has a pair of markers, and Brian Lashoff, younger brother of former Bruins prospect Matt, had a couple of helpers.
Quiet game so far from Cam Fowler. Maybe No. 24 is saving his best game for Canada?
Jason Zucker scored the second goal of the period on a nice feed from Ryan Bourque. Zucker was going hard to the net and deflected the pass into the net. Zucker is an interesting prospect who is a 2010 draft-eligible and could raise his stock at this tourney. He doesn't have a lot of size, but makes up for it with skill and intensity. Oh, and he's the first-ever Nevada native to play on the U.S. Team.
I'll update this blog post as the game goes on.
UPDATE: U.S. up against some questionable officiating and you have to wonder if we're seeing the old ugly selective calls that I see happen every year against American teams by international refs being employed here. David Warsofsky was mugged in front of the Latvia net, but the call went against him, giving Latvia a 5-on-3. Then a blatant trip by Latvia goes uncalled, but they nab Ryan Bourque to give them an extended 5-on-3. Latvia scores, 6-1.
Not to sound like the ugly American here, but this is one of those things that really bug me. The Latvians don't need charity- earn those power plays, guys. The refs ought to be ashamed at the way they looked the other way, while calling the U.S. team as draconian as possible. It really affects the integrity of the game when things like this happen, score be damned.
UPDATE: 7-1, U.S. Chris Kreider with his 2nd PPG of the game. Took a pass out in the slot and fired it past the goalie.
UPDATE: Heckuva rush from defenseman Matt Donovan, who skated through the Latvian team with a great display of speed and agility, but sent his shot just wide. Would have made all the highlight reels if he could've finished. Not bad for the kid from Oklahoma. Give the Islanders scouting staff credit for plucking him out of the USHL.
Much better period by Latvia and their goaltender. These guys have not rolled over and died and deserve credit for playing a rugged style in the face of superior skill.
UPDATE: Two USA goals in the first 10 minutes to make it 9-1 from captain Derek Stepan (Rangers prospect) and Zucker's second on the night with a wicked wrister on the short side, joining Kristo and Kreider with two apiece.
UPDATE: Final score: USA 12, Latvia 1 Kreider gets the hat trick thanks to a converted penalty shot in the third. He used his patented blazing speed to get in quick on the goalie, who was too deep in his net and beat him cleanly with a low shot to the stick side. Also scoring in the last 10 minu was Stepan, his 2nd and Jeremy Morin.
It's great to see Kreider doing so well. He's a quality person who has a world of talent but not the ego to go with it. With four goals in three games, he's playing extremely well and should have a lot of confidence when he gets back to Chestnut Hill.