3271USA has big game one
- May 1 11:21 AMTeam USA powers past Slovenia 7-0
By John Sanful
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.
It was a baptism of fire for Slovenian netminder Robert Kristan
"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
Erdo Terglav teamed to put pressure on net, and Peter Rozic 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. Kristen 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
"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 Anze 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
regluation 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 Stastny, 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
"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."