Team USA defeated Austria 5-1 in their opening game at the 2011 World Championship in Slovakia. The young US squad got contributions from multiple players and the line of Derek Stepan (2 assists), Craig Smith (goal) and Blake Wheeler (goal) seemed to start clicking early for the Americans and was noticeable all game.
Chris Kreider, of Boston College, opened the scoring at 14:42 of the first period when he broke in down the right side of the ice, dipped his shoulder to fend of an Austrian defenseman and jammed home the puck to give USA the early lead. Florida Panthers’ forward and NTDP product, Jack Skille had 3 to 4 solid scoring chances in the game, including a 2 on 1, and his line-mates Tim Stapleton and Chris Porter showed good pace and hustle throughout the game. Islanders’ goaltender, Al Montoya was solid in net for the win, but he really wan’t tested that often facing only 13 shots in the game.
American defenseman Jack Johnson, fresh off a long trip over the pond, played great for the US even though he may have been a little jet-lagged. The 10:15 am ET start for this game was technically a 7:15 am game for him coming from California. However, judging from his play, especially on the 5 on 3 penalty kill, you would have never known. In addition to Johnson’s stellar play, Kevin Shattenkirk, of the St. Louis Blues, added a nice goal in the third period by delaying his shot until an Austrian player crossed by to conceal his release and partially screen the Austrian goaltender. After Shattenkirk’s goal, the US seemed to put the 4-1 game on cruise control, until Smith added the final goal to make it 5-1.
One thing is certain, the blue line for this US team is solid and should allow the Americans to compete in every game of this tournament, no matter the opponent. The next US game is verse Norway on Monday, May 2nd, at 10:15 am ET on Versus. Do yourself a favor and take an early lunch to tune in.
U.S. Player of the game: Chris Kreider
For tournament team/player stats, go here.