It wasn’t the prettiest effort, but the United States won their first game of the 2011 WJC in overtime against Finland. Nick Bjugstad (Minnesota) got the OT winner for the Americans.
Results wise it isn’t the biggest deal because Finland is by far the US’s toughest test of pool play, and assuming they win out they will win their pool and get a bye. But their lackluster effort could go one of two ways. It’s possible that this could serve as a wakeup call and the US will come out buzzing for the rest of the tournament, or they could fall victim to the same effort problems that plagued them throughout this one.
Finland outshot the us 34-30, and thankfully Jack Campbell was on top of his game. He didn’t get a lot of help from his defensemen at times, and the second goal he gave up was a bit fluky. Defensively the Americans got nice efforts from Justin Faulk (Minnesota-Duluth), who scored the first goal, Derek Forbort (North Dakota) and captain John Ramage (Wisconsin). Nick Leddy, on loan from the Blackhawks, had a rough game, getting out muscled by the Finnish forwards all night. He had a couple miscues that led to Finland’s first goal as well.
On a college hockey note, all three American goals were scored by collegians, and all three by players from the WCHA. Faulk got the first, Denver’s Jason Zucker had a great wrist shot for the second, and Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad had the OT winner.
Elsewhere, former Notre Dame forward Kyle Palmieri had the move of the tournament so far, but just missed a goal. Brock Nelson (North Dakota) was a bit lazy on the backcheck that allowed Finland to tie it, but had a nice dive to block a shot in OT. Emerson Etem had a couple nice flashes, as did Chris Kreider (Boston College), but the US has some things to work on over the rest of pool play. And they might have to do it without Jeremy Morin, who might be done for the tournament. It wouldn’t knock the US from the role of favorites, but it would be a big blow.