Line shift provides needed shake-up, carries U.S. to World Junior bronze

The United States needed a different game coming into the 2011 World Junior Championship bronze-medal matchup against Sweden. After the poor play in the semifinal against Team Canada, coach Keith Allain decided to mix things up. He even took the drastic measure of breaking up his top producing line of Chris Kreider-Charlie Coyle-Kyle Palmieri, moving Coyle off the line and inserting Drew Shore at center.

“I didn’t move Drew specifically to move Drew,” said Allain, who also coaches Yale. “I didn’t think our collective play was very good the other night. I was trying to find some combinations and shuffle the lines a little bit. I thought Drew responded very well.”

He did at a very crucial moment.

The Americans got stronger as the game went on, and the newly inserted Shore line produced three of the goals in USA’s 4-2 win over Sweden. And Shore scored a key goal 52 seconds into the third to give Team USA the momentum it never gave up.

“I knew Shore just from playing with him at the camp,” Palmieri said. “Coach wanted to mix some of the lines up and try to get something going a little more offensively. It turned out it worked pretty well. Our line played well tonight.”

“We had a bunch of really good centers,” Kreider said. “Playing with Drew was a lot of fun. Playing with Charlie was a lot of fun, too. It’s an honor to play with them. They’re great playmakers; they’re great teammates.”

With the score tied 1-1 heading into the final period, the next goal was going to be key. Justin Faulk of Minnesota-Duluth took a shot from the right point which Shore perfectly deflected over the goaltender’s glove into the upper corner. The U.S. had a 2-1 lead, and it never looked back.

“He just wanted to switch everything up,” Shore said. “We didn’t have much success against Canada, so coming into this game we just wanted to have a fresh start.”

Shore came into the game with one goal in the tournament, a highlight-reel score against Slovakia. With the Denver Pioneers — he also hails from Denver — he has 14 goals and 11 assists in 20 games for his sophomore campaign, leading the team with 25 points.

Shore is no stranger to success. He tied for the Under-18 team assist lead with seven as well as getting two goals last year as Team USA took the gold in the World Championship. He was drafted in the second round by the Florida Panthers.

His new line was able to use the speed of Boston College’s Kreider that was stymied against Canada. Kreider scored two goals on Wednesday, including the clincher with 1:53 left.

Sweden went on top midway through the game when Oscar Lindberg knocked in a loose puck after initially fanning on it. Kreider tied it less than two minutes later on the power play. Chris Brown of Michigan, from left of the goal on the line, fed Kreider in the slot. Kreider quickly released a one-timer that squeezed inside the right post.

Kreider’s final score was due to his speed. After Sweden cut the lead to one at 14:18 of the third period with a dramatic diving effort by Jesper Fasth to knock in his own rebound, Team USA took advantage of the Swedes pressing for the equalizer. The Americans broke out on a three-on-one, with Palmieri racing down the right side. Kreider was even faster down the left side, and Palmieri led him perfectly. At full stride, Kreider paused before unleashing a wrist shot into the near side.

“Chris’ greatest strength is his speed,” Allain said. “He used his speed effectively today. I think we didn’t do a good job as a team of getting him the puck in situations where he could use his speed in prior games. I thought his linemates played well for him tonight.”

Minnesota’s Nick Bjugstad gave the U.S. a 3-1 lead at 11:40 of the third. He deflected a Nick Leddy shot from the left point.

“I’m proud of the way our guys came out,” Allain said.

Thanks in large part to moving Shore to center the top line and score the turnaround goal, Team USA claimed two firsts in the World Juniors: a medal on home ice and a medal in a second straight tournament.

Campbell named top goaltender

U.S. goaltender Jack Campbell was awarded the Directorate Award as the tournament’s top goaltender. He was the lone American on the all-tournament team.