Germany Tops U.S. In WJC Debut

Mercel Muller jammed the puck home from the side of the net at 1:51 of overtime to give Germany a 2-1 victory over the United States Tuesday in the opening game for both teams at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. Team USA outshot Germany by a 39-16 count in the contest.

“Sure, it’s disappointing,” said U.S. head coach Ron Rolston, “but it’s a long tournament. We didn’t capitalize on our chances and their goaltender and team played a solid game. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow night against Canada.”

Germany had a 1-0 lead after the opening period despite being outshot 15-5. The goal came at 13:45 on the power play as a wrist shot lofted from the top of the right circle by Christopher Giebe went over the shoulder of a screened Jeff Zatkoff and in. Team USA had several solid chances to score in the period, the best perhaps just more than four minutes into the contest when Ryan Stoa missed an open net after a beautiful cross-ice feed from Kyle Okposo.

Team USA dominated what proved to be a scoreless second period despite mounting sustained pressure in the German zone on multiple occasions. While Zatkoff was forced to make just three saves in the period, he made a key stop on Felix Schutz’s point-blank shorthanded chance just :28 into the stanza.

The U.S. had 15 shots on goal in the period, a stanza that included five power-play opportunities and :41 total of five-on-three time. The period included two Jack Skille shots that clanged off the post in a two-minute period near the midway point.

The U.S. tied the game on the power play at 8:56 of the third period when Peter Mueller blasted home a shot from the center point. Patrick Kane and Okposo drew assists on the play. Germany nearly took the lead less than two minutes later, but Zatkoff made a spectacular glove save on a chance in front by Schutz.

Zatkoff finished with 14 saves, while Sebastian Stefaniszin had 38 stops for Germany.

NOTES: Kane, who had five shots on goal and an assist, was named the U.S. Player of the Game. … The 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship features athletes under the age of 20 on international teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. … The U.S. National Junior Team is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia. … Eight members of the U.S. National Junior Team are returning from last year’s team, including Taylor Chorney, Jeff Frazee, Nate Gerbe, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Brian Lee, Peter Mueller and Jack Skille.