Magazine Musings: U.S. 8, Kazakhstan 2

The Five Biggest Takeaways From the U.S. Win Over Kazakhstan

Here are five takeaways from the United States’ second preliminary game of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. The U.S. topped Kazakhstan, 8-2, on Friday at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C.

 

Far Out, Farabee

 

Oliver Wahlstrom got the United States on the board just 1:37 into the opening frame, but it was Joel Farabee’s performance that stole the show.

 

Farabee scored a natural hat trick in a span of 6 minutes and 52 seconds, expanding the U.S. lead to 4-1 with 7:55 remaining in the first period. The Cicero, N.Y., native scored in a variety of ways, first on a wicked wrister on the power-play. Then he drove to the slot and followed up a play by jamming home a backhand, and capped it off taking advantage of a Kazakhstan miscue and patiently slipped a backhander through the wickets of helpless netminder Demid Yeremeyev.

 

Farabee, selected 14thin the 2018 NHL Draft, is one of four Flyers prospects on the U.S. roster, alongside Noah Cates, Jay O’Brien and Jack St. Ivany. The Flyers’ seven prospects in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship tie for the most drafted players competing in the competition with Montreal and Chicago.

 

Robertson is Rolling

 

Jason Robertson was arguably the best forward for Team USA in its tournament opener against Slovakia, despite not finding his name on the scoresheet.

 

Tonight, he did. Four times, finishing with four assists, all primary helpers. While his vision and puck-protection are skills he’s known for, the Northville, Mich., native has put his speed on display as well.

 

Those traits were big reasons why the Dallas Stars selected him with the 39thoverall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Robertson has been dynamic for the U.S. in what has been a spectacular year so far for the forward, leading the Ontario Hockey League in points with 60. Tonight, he was named the U.S. Player of the Game, as his four points led the team.

 

Power-Play Prowess

 

Despite the absence of Jack Hughes, who missed the contest and is listed day-to-day with an injury, the U.S. finished the game 2-for-6 with the man-advantage, with Farabee and Sasha Chmelevski both finding the twine. Combined with a 1-for-3 showing against Slovakia, the U.S. has so far converted on 33.3 percent of its power-play opportunities. That mark trails only Sweden, who has scored on 4-of-11 chances (36.4).

 

The U.S. power play runs through Quinn Hughes. The Orlando, Fla., native picked up an assist on Farabee’s tally and almost set up another in the third period. Hughes smooth skating, edgework and elusiveness can certainly be mesmerizing to opposing defenders, but he keeps it simple on the power play, showing no hesitation to shoot. It helped create a lot of chances for the U.S. with tips and rebounds.

 

Prime Time For Primeau

 

Cayden Primeau got the nod in net for the Americans and saved 11 of the 13 shots he faced. While his save percentage (84.6 %) wasn’t chart topping, he managed to keep his head in the game despite most of the action taking place in the Kazakhstan end of the ice.

 

The Voorhees, N.J., native was bitten by an early defensive lapse that sprung Kazakstan forward Valeri Orekhov in on a breakaway, but he provided solid goaltending as the U.S. padded its lead while outshooting the opposition, 63-13.

 

It will be interesting to see who U.S. head coach Mike Hastings taps on the shoulder against Sweden. Does he go back to Kyle Keyser, who was sharp in the opener against Slovakia, or go with Primeau, who is lighting it up at Northeastern University. Either way, the U.S. is in good hands in goal.

 

Showdown With Sweden

 

The focus now shifts to Sweden, who are also perfect in preliminary-round play. The defending silver medalists were tested right out of the gate, facing long-time rival Finland (2-1) and a Slovakia (5-2) to pad their winning streak to 46-straight group stage contests. 

 

The U.S. holds a 14-1-0-15-2 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) record against the Nordic nation in World Junior Championship play. Sweden’s last preliminary loss came at the hands of the U.S., in Dec. 31, 2006, when Jack Johnson scored the overtime winner to propel the Americans to a 3-2 victory.

 

Like the Americans, the Swedes boast a lineup loaded with talent, including four first-round selections, two second-round picks and Philip Broberg, a rising star in goal who is expected to hear his name called early in this year’s draft. Their captain, Erik Brannstrom, a Vegas Golden Knights pick, has three goals through two games.

 

The winner will be in the driver’s set to win Group B, although the U.S. has a tougher task to close out the preliminary round taking on Finland on New Year’s Eve, while Sweden draws Kazakhstan.

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