The negatives are pretty clear for the United States junior national team following yesterday's 3-2 loss to Canada. Despite dominating the first half of the game, the US could only edge out to an early 1-0 lead. The Americans' early dominance gave way to a Canadian surge. While most of us were well into watching BC get rolled in the AdvocareV100 Bowl, Canada scored three unanswered to take a 3-1 lead. A frantic late comeback was for naught and the US lost 3-2.
Losing to the rivals to the north was bad enough, but what's worse, in the bigger picture, is the situation the US is in now if they wish to repeat as gold medalists - they face a nearly unprecedented gauntlet. A win over Canada would have given the US a date with noted hockey power Switzerland in the quarterfinals. Instead, the Americans will face Russia in tomorrow's first quarterfinal, at 6 AM on NHL Network.
If the US gets past the Russians, it only gets harder: they will face the winner of Sweden vs. Slovakia. The Swedes have been dominant in this tournament, going 4-0 in the prelim round and playing in front of raucous home crowds in the Malmo Arena. They are, at this point, the gold medal favorites. IF the US can win those two, a rematch with Canada would likely await in the final, as Canada's path consists of Switzerland, then either Finland or the Czech Republic.
So, obviously, the road is harrowing for the US. But I'm trying to look on the bright side here, and here's what I've got: if the US can beat Russia tomorrow, they will play for a medal - and will need to win just one of two games to bring a medal home from Sweden.
While Russia is a strong opponent on paper, they haven't been world-beaters so far in this tournament, losing 4-1 to Finland and being very lucky to only lose 3-2 to Sweden yesterday. Russian goalie Andrei Vasilevski was the only reason why the Russians were in that game. He's been phenomenal in this tournament, but he has had some notable shaky moments in the last two World Junior championships.
And so, here we go. The US still had an outstanding preliminary round, and has a great chance of bringing home a medal.
Quarterfinal schedule (all games live on NHL Network)
6 AM - USA vs Russia
8:30 AM - Czech Republic vs. Finland
11 AM - Canada vs. Switzerland
1:30 PM - Sweden vs. Slovakia