Slovakia Stuns U.S. In WJC Quarterfinals

Despite outshooting Slovakia by a 47-19 count, the United States dropped a 5-3 decision Friday in the quarterfinal round of the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

Team USA will conclude play in the event Sunday (Jan. 4) in the fifth-place game against either the Czech Republic or Russia. Faceoff is set for 7:30 p.m. (EST) at Scotiabank Place.

“We had some golden opportunities early in the game that we didn’t capitalize on and as the game wore on, that proved to play a factor,” said U.S. head coach Ron Rolston. “It was one of those games that just wasn’t meant to be. Give Slovakia credit. Obviously, our guys are extremely disappointed. We have a lot of character in our room and our guys played hard until the end.”

The U.S. had its first golden opportunity just :55 into the game as Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn./Boston University) burst up the middle and was hooked from behind with a penalty shot resulting. In international hockey, any player may attempt the penalty shot and Jordan Schroeder (Prior Lake, Minn./University of Minnesota) was selected. His backhand attempt was stopped by Jaroslav Janus.

The U.S. had at least four other outstanding chances in the first eight and a half minutes of the period, but Slovakia struck first when Adam Bezak beat U.S. netminder Thomas McCollum (Sanborn, N.Y.) on the shortside from the top of the right faceoff circle at 11:05.

The U.S. evened the game less than a minute later when Ian Cole (Ann Arbor, Mich./University of Notre Dame) found the back of the net on the power play after breaking down the slot from the right point and receiving a nice feed from Wilson.

Slovakia took the lead for good at 13:41 when Tomas Tatar backhanded one home from between the circles after a U.S. turnover. Jozef Molnar got the benefit of his shot from the side of the circle deflecting off a U.S. defender’s stick and into the net at 17:53 and Slovakia had a 3-1 lead after the opening period.

The U.S. dominated the second period, but Slovak netminder Jaroslav Janus turned aside all 15 shots on goal. Just 1:12 into the period Cole rang one off the post and two and a half minutes later, Janus got a leg on Drawson Bowman’s (Littleton, Colo.) attempt from the doorstep. Slovakia’s first shot on goal came 12:29 into the period.

Team USA closed to within 3-2 when defenseman and captain Jonathon Blum (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) tapped home the third rebound off Kevin Shattenkirk’s (New Rochelle, N.Y./Boston University) initial power-play blast from the point at 5:24.

The Slovaks responded with a goal off the stick of Richard Panik that was confirmed after video review at 11:38 to re-gain a two-goal lead. After an empty-net goal by Slovakia at 17:46, James van Riemsdyk (Middletown, N.J./University of New Hampshire) put one between the legs of Janus with McCollum pulled at 18:42.

The U.S. continued to pressure the Slovaks, but could not get any closer.

McCollum made 14 saves in the game.

NOTES: Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn./University of Wisconsin) was named Team USA’s Player of the Game … With his assist on Team USA’s first goal, Jordan Schroeder moved into sole possession of the top spot on the U.S. all-time career assist chart at the World Junior Championships with 15, passing Doug Weight (14) … Jonathon Blum is the captain of the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team, while forward Colin Wilson and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk are the team’s alternate captains … Ron Rolston, head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team within USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, is the head coach of the 2009 U.S. National Junior Team. Nate Leaman (Clifton Park, N.Y./Union College) and P.K. O’Handley (Waterloo, Iowa/Waterloo Black Hawks) are serving as assistant coaches, while Jeff Blashill (Indianapolis, Ind./Indiana Ice) is the goaltending coach.

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