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U.S. Defeats Latvia, 6-1, in World Juniors Opener

12/26/2016, 6:45am EST
By USAHockey.com

Keller Nets Two Goals; U.S. Faces Slovakia Wednesday (Dec. 28) at 7:30 p.m. ET on NHL Network

TORONTO – Clayton Keller (St. Louis, Mo./Boston University) netted two goals and 10 other players registered a point as the U.S. National Junior Team defeated Latvia, 6-1, here today in its opening game of the 2017 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship at the Air Canada Centre.

“We got better as the game went on,” said Bob Motzko (St. Cloud, Minn./St. Cloud State University), head coach of the 2017 U.S. National Junior Team. “You could tell there were some nerves in the first period, but after the guys settled in we found our style of play and got the job done. We’ll learn from this as we get ready for the next one.”

Team USA (1-0-0-0) continues preliminary-round play on Wednesday (Dec. 28) against Slovakia. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised live on NHL Network.

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Patrick Harper (New Canaan, Conn./Boston University) opened the scoring for Team USA at 6:27 of the opening frame. Harper collected a pass from Casey Fitzgerald (North Reading, Mass./Boston College) at the top of the right circle, turned towards goal and fired a wrist shot past Latvian goaltender Mareks Mitens.

Latvia evened the score with 4:38 left in the first period when Renars Krastenbergs beat Tyler Parsons (Chesterfield, Mich./London Knights) on a breakaway.

The U.S. nearly scored the go-ahead goal lead late in the period when a one-timer by Luke Kunin (Chesterfield, Mo./University of Wisconsin) ricocheted off the left post with just over three minutes left in the stanza.

Colin White (Hanover, Mass./Boston College) regained the lead for Team USA when he converted on a three-on-two rush during a delayed penalty at 6:29 of the middle frame. The play started when Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn./University of Connecticut) entered the zone and flipped a backhand pass to the left wing for White, who streaked towards the net and tucked a shot just below the crossbar for the eventual game-winning goal.

The U.S. made it 3-1 with just 1:15 left in the second frame when Keller scored his first goal of the game by shoveling home a rebound off a shot by White.

In the final period, Keller tallied again at the 12:18 mark to extend Team USA’s lead to 4-1 before Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y./Kitchener Rangers) added a power-play marker with 2:19 to play. Jordan Greenway (Canton, N.Y./Boston University) netted a rebound with :40 left to account for the 6-1 final.

Parsons finished with 11 saves to earn the victory for the United States.

NOTES: Team USA outshot Latvia, 30-12, while finishing 1-for-5 on the power play and 6-for-6 on the penalty kill ... For full game stats, click here ... The U.S. has won its last 10 opening games of the IIHF World Junior Championship (8-2-0-0/W-OTW-OTL-L) … At the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, the U.S. is competing in Group B alongside Canada, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia. All U.S. games will be broadcast live on NHL Network ... For complete coverage of Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, click here …  Use the hashtag #USAWJC on Twitter to join the conversation about the 2017 U.S. National Junior Team

U.S. Roster

2017 U.S. Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/Result Round Location
Dec. 21 Switzerland W, 4-3 Pre-Tournament Oshawa, Ont.
Dec. 23 Czech Republic W, 4-0 Pre-Tournament Kingston, Ont.
Dec. 26 Latvia W, 6-1 Preliminary Toronto, Ont.
Dec. 28 Slovakia W, 5-2 Preliminary Toronto, Ont.
Dec. 29 Russia 3:30 p.m. Preliminary Toronto, Ont.
Dec. 31 Canada 3:30 p.m. Preliminary Toronto, Ont.
Jan. 2 TBD TBD Quarterfinals TBD
Jan. 4 TBD TBD Semifinals Montreal, Que.
Jan. 5 TBD 3:30 p.m. Bronze Medal Montreal, Que.
TBD 8:00 p.m. Gold Medal Montreal, Que.

Pre-Game Information

The U.S. National Junior Team faces Latvia today at 3:30 p.m. ET to open Group A play at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship here in Toronto. The 2016 bronze medalist in Helsinki, Finland, Team USA enters the tournament seeking back-to-back medal finishes for the second time ever (2010 - gold, 2011 - bronze). Today's game will be televised in the U.S. live on NHL Network.

THE SERIES VS. LATVIA
This is just the third time ever that the United States and Latvia will meet in IIHF World Junior Championship play. The U.S., which won both games, last faced Latvia in 2012 where it skated to a 12-2 victory.

PRE-TOURNAMENT GAMES
The U.S. National Junior Team claimed both its pre-tournament games by defeating Switzerland, 4-3, at the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa, Ontario, on Dec. 21, and by shutting out the Czech Republic, 4-0, at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario, on Dec. 23. The U.S. outshot opponents, 63-47, went 1-for-7 on the power play and 6-for-6 on penalty kill while 12 different players registered at least one point over the two games.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The U.S. National Junior Team has won its first game of the IIHF World Junior Championship in each of the last nine tournaments. A year ago, Team USA topped Canada, 4-2, with goals from Colin WhiteZach WerenskiLouie Belpedio and Auston Matthews

POINT-LEADERS REPRESENTING TEAM USA
Of the 18 skaters on Team USA, 16 rank in the top five of their respective teams in scoring, including seven who rank first. In addition, Jeremy Bracco (Freeport, N.Y./Kitchener Rangers) ranks second in the OHL in assists and third in points; Caleb Jones (Frisco, Texas/Portland Winterhawks) leads WHL defensemen in assists; Tanner Laczynski (Shorewood, Ill./Ohio State University) sits second among all NCAA freshmen in assists and points; and Jack Roslovic (Columbus, Ohio/Manitoba Moos)is fourth among all AHL rookies in points.

Among the three goaltenders, Tyler Parsons (Chesterfield, Mich./London Knights) ranks top five in the OHL in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts; Joseph Woll (St. Louis, Mo./Boston College) leads Hockey East in wins while ranking second in the NCAA; and Jake Oettinger (Lakeville, Minn./Boston University) is top 10 in goals against average, save percentage and shutouts in the NCAA.

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