After failing to get past Russia and Canada earlier this week, the USA was in a must-win situation on Monday in their tilt against Slovakia.
Their response? An 9-3 win over the Slovaks that gets them into the medal round at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship. They now play Sweden in Wednesday's quarter-final.
Calgary Flames prospect Johnny Gaudreau hit his offensive stride in the victory, recording three points against Slovakia. He put five shots on net, leading all players in that category.
Through four games at the tournament, Gaudreau has three points, 15 shots and an even rating. His shooting percentage currently sits at 13.33%.
The two teams exchanged goals 14 seconds apart before the 5:00 mark rolled around in the first period. Gibson bailed his team out after a turnover in the Americans zone, Cole Bardreau was able to go in on a partial breakaway. He roofed the puck over Adam Nagy's right shoulder to give the USA their first lead of the game.
Then, Matus Matis was able to pick up a pass feathered up the middle of the ice by Milan Kolena and snapped a shot through Gibson on his breakaway. The goal was a result of an American turnover high in the Slovaks zone.
Jake McCabe gave his squad the lead less than a minute after the Slovakian equalizer when he his backhand eluded Nagy. The play started with an excellent feed from Jim Vesey at the point, who was promoted from being the 13th forward to the top line in today's tilt.
Gaudreau pushed the score to 3-1 at 9:00 in the first period. He slipped behind the Slovakian defence and had all the time and space he needed when he collected a Shayne Gostisbehere rebound, skated to the front of the net and slipped a backhand past Nagy's pad.
The goal prompted a goaltending change for Slovakia. Patrik Romancik took over for Nagy but he didn't fare much better than his counterpart.
Defencemen Mike Reilly and Jacob Trouba added two more goals before the period came to a close. However, the momentum shifted in the Slovaks favour near the end of the frame after Gostisbehere was handed a slashing major and a game misconduct.
After a scramble in front of the net that left Gibson down on the ice, Richard Mraz was able to jump on the loose puck to make it 5-2 after 20:00 of play. It was the only offence the Slovaks were able to generate on their 5:00 power play.
In the second frame, Gaudreau picked up two more points before the midway mark. During a USA power play, he waltzed through the defence and his backhander beat Romancik. Shortly after, during another American man advantage, his crisp pass through a crowd found Vince Trocheck, who fired a shot in the slot to make it 7-2.
Trocheck added his second goal of the game in the second period while Matis notched his second tally in the third frame. Alex Galchenyuk was responsible for the USA's ninth goal of the afternoon on a late-game power play.
USA'S LINES, DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS & GOALTENDER
Johnny Gaudreau - J.T. Miller - Jim Vesey
Alex Galchenyuk - Sean Kuraly - Riley Barber
Blake Pietila - Cole Bardreau - Ryan Hartman
Mario Lucia - Vince Trocheck - Tyler Biggs
Mike Reilly - Seth Jones
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jacob Trouba
Jake McCabe - Connor Murphy
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