What a difference two years makes.
The last time Team USA and Slovenia met, it was to fight it out in the Relegation Round of the 2003 IIHF World Championship. It did not take the United States long to establish a presence here at Innsbruck.
The Americans scored thirty seconds into the game en route to a 7-0 win over Slovenia at Olympiahalle. Mike Knuble scored two goals as Team USA put on a hockey clinic with a balanced attack that kept the Slovenians bottled up in their own end for most of the afternoon.
It was important for Team USA to get off to a fast start. The last time an American team won its opening game of the tournament was 2002, when they defeated Italy 5-2. Team USA wasted no time, as they came out in an efficient manner, nabbing a 1-0 lead when Knuble rifled a shot past Robert Kristan from a smooth cross ice feed from Erik Cole 0:31 seconds into the contest.
“The goal helped us out with the crowd, as the Slovenian fans were loud,” USA Coach Peter Laviolette said. “Early goals like that one even out the building a little bit.”
Team USA made it 2-0 when David Legwand skated into the Slovenian zone between defenders and shot the puck on Kristan, who could not control the rebound. Legwand kicked the loose puck to his stick and slid it to Adam Hall, who brought it from behind the net and deposited it into the open side as Kristan was out of position.
The USA’s up-tempo style dictated the pace of the game. Team USA moved the puck well on the power play with Doug Weight backing the Slovenians deep into their zone. Weight and his linemates attempted a tic-tac-toe cross ice pattern on a few occasions, and it finally paid off late in the first. Weight accepted a cross-ice pass and skated into the zone on the right side, sending a laser into the crease to Mark Parrish for his first of the tournament. Carrying a 3-0 lead into the intermission, the Americans were clearly in command.
“We had a good start, and had it under control pretty early on,” said Team USA captain Mike Modano. “It seemed we had a lot of open ice and a lot of time to make plays through the neutral zone.”
Slovenia’s best chances came in the first period as Dejan Kontrec and Edo Terglav teamed to put pressure on net, and Peter Rožič bore in on DiPietro, but both chances went unconverted. After those efforts, it was all Team USA, all the time.
Knuble, making his first World Championship appearance in three years, was everywhere. He was always around the net, using his frame and smarts to create his own space and, as a result, scoring chances. It seemed that everything the Americans tried, worked.
“I have a newfound respect for Mike Knuble and the way he has been able to carry people on his back; he is tough to defend,” said Laviolette. “He played relentless hockey, digging for pucks and making things happen. His line played well and he was a big reason why.”
In the second period, Jeff Halpern scored to make it 5-0. Halpern was attempting a pass in front that went off a Slovenian defenders skate and into the net. Kristan was not in his best form, and facing such an elite lineup only made things worse. You almost hoped head coach Kari Savolainen would save Kristan from the embarrassment and take him out of the game. But Kristan, whom the Slovenian media guide says enjoys doing a goalie dance “if the result is ok,” would not have much reason to flashdance today.
“Today you saw the difference in the people they have who play at the highest level,” said Savolainen. “They did not give us any chance. It is no shame to lose against this kind of team, but I am not satisfied.”
Forward Anže Kopitar, a 17-year talent making his debut for the Slovenian national men’s team, could not provide the spark his team needed, a tough assignment in any case for a teen. Kopitar, wearing his regulation face mask as per IIHF regulations for players his age, ended the game as a -3. Slovenia managed a mere 11 shots on goal for the game.
“We made a couple of mistakes and they scored goals,” said Kopitar. “It is a nice feeling playing against these players, and I look forward to going against Canada.”
Yan Stastny closed the scoring with a shorthanded goal. With Halpern whistled off for slashing, Stastny, the son of Team Slovak general manager and NHL legend Peter Šťastný, added to Kristan’s misery.
Team USA gets an off day tomorrow before facing Latvia on Tuesday. Slovenia will now have to contend with Canada, which will be equally challenging.
“We played well as a team and scoring the goal felt good,” said Stastny, who did not keep the puck after scoring his first ever World Championship goal. “The games will be more difficult as we face two top teams over the next few days.”
00:31 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Knuble (Cole)
06:39 – 🇸🇮 PEN – Ciglenečki, tripping
10:43 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Miller, holding
16:34 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Hall (Legwand)
18:59 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Parrish (Weight)
21:40 – 🇸🇮 PEN – Rebolj, interference
25:48 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Knuble
27:57 – 🇺🇸 GOAL – Halpern (Gionta)
33:26 – 🇸🇮 PEN – Sotlar, high sticking
35:52 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Knuble, slashing
41:08 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Parrish, hooking
43:40 – 🇸🇮 PEN – Kristan, tripping
50:56 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Halpern, slashing
51:19 – 🇺🇸 SH GOAL – Stastny (Cole)
58:16 – 🇸🇮 PEN – Hafner, hooking
58:34 – 🇺🇸 PP GOAL – Gionta (York)
W: 🇺🇸 DiPietro (16-16)
L: 🇸🇮 Kristan (31-38)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇺🇸 13+10+15 = 38
🇸🇮 6+3+7 = 16
🇺🇸 Goaltenders: Ty Conklin, Rick DiPietro. Defence: Hal Gill, Brett Hauer, Jordan Leopold, John-Michael Liles, Paul Martin, Aaron Miller, Andy Roach. Forwards: Erik Cole, Brian Gionta, Adam Hall, Jeff Halpern, Mike Knuble, David Legwand, Mike Modano, Richard Park, Mark Parrish, Yan Stastny, Doug Weight, Mike York.
🇸🇮 Goaltenders: Gaber Glavič, Andrej Hočevar, Robert Kristan. Defence: Robert Ciglenečki, Damjan Dervarič, Tomo Hafner, Miha Rebolj, Mitja Robar, David Rodman, Marcel Rodman, Mitja Sotlar, Bojan Zajc. Forwards: Jaka Avgustinčič, Jurij Goličič, Ivo Jan, Dejan Kontrec, Anže Kopitar, Tomaž Razingar, Peter Rožič, Mitja Šivic, Edo Terglav, Dejan Varl, Luka Žagar.
|🇺🇸 UNITED STATES (C)||vs.||SLOVENIA 🇸🇮|
(since 22 Apr 2005)
|First IHLC Meeting (USA vs. SLO)
|Previous IHLC Meeting (USA vs. SLO)
|Last IHLC Game
🇺🇸 USA 3-1 GER 🇩🇪 – 28 Apr 2005 – EX – Rosenheim 🇩🇪
|Next IHLC Game
🇺🇸 USA 3-1 LAT 🇱🇻 – 03 May 2005 – WC – Innsbruck 🇦🇹