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U.S. Determined to Rebound Quickly

By Harry Thompson - USA Hockey Magazine, 09/17/16, 9:30PM EDT


Team USA Returns to Practice Sunday

TORONTO -- Losing the first game in a short tournament can put any team in a deep hole. But when you're second must-win game comes against the tournament favorite on their home ice, that hole may look more like the Grand Canyon.

After a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Team Europe in the opening game of the World Cup of Hockey, Team USA may need an extension ladder to see a path to the next round of this best-on-best tournament.

"This is not a marathon, as coaches always talk about in an NHL season. This is a sprint," said Team USA Head Coach John Tortorella. "We've put ourselves in a spot now where we're chasing the tournament. It's a spot that we didn't want to be in. It's a very dangerous spot, but here we are."

Defensive lapses that led to too many odd-man rushes, too few early scoring chances and a disallowed power-play goal all contributed to the predicament that Team USA finds itself in. And with two days to figure out how to cut down on the mistakes while creating more offensive opportunities, the next 48 hours are critical for tournament hopes that were sky high just hours earlier.

"We probably wish we were playing tomorrow or the next day," said Patrick Kane, whose second-period turnover led to a 2-on-0 break that ended with Leon Draisaitl's easy tap-in goal.

"It'll be a long two days for us. I'm sure we'll go over some things on video and learn from our mistakes and figure out the way we want to play and want to do certain things better."

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Despite holding a 35-17 shot advantage, the Americans couldn't solve goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who came up with several huge saves on back-to-back U.S. power plays late in the game. This frustrated Tortorella, who thought the effort was there but not the execution.

"We're trying, and you have to give the opposing team some credit in terms of how well they defended," Tortorella said. "I thought our guys tried hard. We tried to stick together even through a little bit of adversity. But we just couldn't create better scoring chances."

Few gave Team Europe much of a chance coming into this game, let alone to go far in the tournament. With players from eight different countries on their roster, head coach Ralph Krueger faced the challenge of melding different cultures and languages into a cohesive unit in less than two week's time.

But while the Europeans may lack the continuity of other federation teams, there was no denying the skill on a roster that includes NHL superstars Zdeno Chara, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik.

After a pair exhibition losses to North American young stars, a 6-2 victory over Sweden had the Europeans feeling pretty good about themselves coming into the game.

"We're going to be a competitive team today, and we're ready to look the Americans in the eye," Krueger said hours before the puck drop.

For the Americans, there is no time to feel sorry for themselves, or dwell on the one that got away. While the margin of error is razor-thin, this is a confident group. With nine players returning from the U.S. Team that came within a goal of winning gold at the Vancouver Olympics, this squad knows what it takes to beat Canada on their home ice.

"We talked about not wanting to chase this tournament, and not chasing this game either. We wanted a good start," said Derek Stepan, who appeared to cut Europe's lead in half in the second period when a power-play shot seemed to ricochet off his helmet and into the net.

"All we're looking at now is moving on to our next game, clean up what we can clean up. We have a couple of days to get ourselves ready for the big dog."

World Cup News

Team USA Schedule & Results

Date Opponent/Event Location Result
Fri, Sept. 9 Canada (Pre-Tourn.) Columbus, OH (Nationwide) W, 4-2
Sat., Sept. 10 Canada (Pre-Tourn.) Ottawa, Ont. L, 2-5
Tues., Sept. 13 Finland (Pre-Tourn.) Washington, D.C. (Verizon) W, 3-2
Sat., Sept. 17 Team Europe Toronto (ACC) L, 0-3
Tues., Sept. 20 Canada Toronto (ACC) L, 2-4
Thurs., Sept. 22 Czech Republic Toronto (ACC) L, 3-4

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