Moving past Canada USA readies for Sweden

Jan. 05, 2011, 1:55 p.m. (ET)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Memories of the 4-1 loss to Team Canada in the semifinals of the 2011 IIHF World Under 20 Championship Monday night may still be fresh in Team USA’s mind, but less than 24 hours later, this is a team focused on the future not the past.

Team USA practiced at HSBC Arena in Buffalo on Tuesday to prepare for a matchup Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET against Sweden to decide the tournament’s bronze medal. U.S. coach Keith Allain described practice as “solid” and said his team is now in a better mental state.

“I think we’re better now than we were before practice,” Allain said. “That’s the beauty of having a practice on a day like today. I think the guys were disappointed obviously. We didn’t play the way we wanted to play last night. As a result we didn’t get the outcome we wanted last night.

“We had a talk with them before practice and I think by the end of practice their spirits were pretty good.”

U.S. defenseman Nick Bjugstad said that the club’s biggest hurdle ahead might be a mental one as there is a need to remember what made this U.S. team successful prior to Tuesday’s semifinal. The U.S. was undefeated in pool play before the Canada loss and through that run was dominating opponents through hard work, speed and determination.

“Mentally it is tough to get (the Canada game) out of your mind, but you have to do it as a team,” Bjugstad said. “We were having a good time this morning and trying to get our minds off of (Canada). So (bringing energy) is key going into tomorrow’s game.”

Teammate Charlie Coyle, who currently leads the U.S. in scoring with two goals and four assists, said the team can’t focus on the past and really must worry about developing a game plan to beat a Sweden team that has outscored opponents 23-12 in the tournament. 

“There’s nothing we can do about (the Canada game) now. We’re focused on Sweden right now,” Coyle said. “We’ve got to play our game, the USA game, and use our speed. We have to create opportunities by going into traffic areas. Doing all of that, playing our game, we’ll be good.”

Scouting the Swedes, the team Allain considers the best in the tournament. They’re a team of big, quick players both on forward and defense that like to possess the puck. That hardly means that this is a team happy to play defense as Sweden can and will come after opponents and have plenty of forwards two can score.

Patrick Cehlin leads Sweden offensively. He has scored four goals and six points thus far in the tournament. Jesper Fasth and Calle Jarnkrok both have five points. Most interesting, though, about the Swedes is that every single skater on this team — forward and defenseman — have gotten their name on the score sheet in this tournament.

“This version of Sweden is much more aggressive than teams in the past,” Allain said. “They forecheck much harder than they have in the past and they’re stronger in the puck battles than older Swedish teams were.”

In goal, Robin Lehner is the flexible, acrobatic goaltender who can move around the crease well. Fredrik Petersson-Wentzel has two wins in the tournament but has taken a backseat for the last two games. Lehner is expected to start in net Wednesday.

In the opposite crease will be Team USA’s Jack Campbell, one of the most successful netminders to put on a USA sweater in amateur competition. The Dallas Stars draftee won gold with Team USA at both the 2009 and 2010 Under-18 World Championship. Campbell will be an underlying storyline for the Americans as he plays his final game representing his country as an amateur.

“His record speaks for itself,” Allain said of Campbell. “The championships he’s won and the games he’s won in international competition have been just amazing.

“I think just as important is that he’s a fantastic kid. What he said to me this morning was that he really wanted to get a gold medal for the guys who were new to the team this year. That’s how he approaches it. He’s just a great kid.”

The U.S. will also rely upon its offense that has shown signs of brilliance at times in the tournament. In addition to Coyle, the U.S. boasts three other multiple goal scorers in Chris Brown, who recorded the lone goal on Monday, and well as Coyle’s linemates Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri. All four players are tied for the team lead in goals with two apiece. 

A victory against Sweden would give the U.S. its seventh medal in the tournament’s history and the first ever on home ice. This is the fifth time the U.S. has hosted the event.

Going beyond the stat sheet, though, Allain is confident that the team that got U.S. to the medal round, not the one that lost to Canada, will be the one that shows up.

“We’re competitive people,” Allain said. “Every time you put on that sweater you want to win. The fact that we have the chance to play for a medal makes it even better.”

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Jim Connelly is a freelance contributor for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.