Kyle Okposo was one of five different players to score as Team USA earned a 5 -1 victory over Kazakhstan today in the opening game for both teams of the preliminary round of the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
"I thought we got stronger as the game wore on," said U.S. Head Coach John Hynes. "It's always important to get the tournament started on the right foot and we accomplished that today."
Kazakhstan got on the board first at 14:46 when Alexandr Kurshuk tipped Yevgeniy Bolyakin's powerplay shot from the right circle past Jeremy Smith. The U.S> evened the game at 19:57 when James vanRiemsdyk tipped the puck past Mikhail Smolnikov at the side of the net. Bill Sweatt assistws on the play.
Rhett Rakhshani put the U.S. ahead for good at 4:58 of the second period when he buried the rebound of a Kyle Okposo shot from the bottom of the left circle. Mike Carman was the recipient of a nice feed from Sweatt, who behind the net at 8:29, the marker giving Team USA a two-goal advantage after 40 minutes.
While netminder Smith had to make only three saves in the period, one was critical 00 on Yevgeni Gasnikov from point blank range with just :01 left.
Colin Wilson's re-direct of Cade Fairchild's power-play shot from the center point at 4:11 of the third period made it 4-1, with vanRiemsdyk assisting. Okposo closed out the scoring at 17:43 when his shot from the side of the right circle deflected off the top of Smolnikov's glove and into the net.
Smith picked up the victory in goal with 17 saves, while Smolnikov made 44 in a losing effort.
Team USA will next face Switzerland on Friday (Dec. 28) at 12 noon ET.
NOTES: James vanRiemsdyk, who recorded a goal and an assist, was named Team USA's Player of the Game ... Team USA will practice tomorrow at 12 noon (6 a.m. EST) ... All Team USA games in the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship are audiocast live on usahockey.com with Jack Swanson and Jeff Sauer calling the action. In addition, all games of the medal round will be televised live by the NHL Network in the United States ... Brian Strait (Waltham, Mass./Boston University) is Team USA's captain, while Chris Summers (Milan, Mich./University of Michigan), Blake Geoffrion (Brentwood, Tenn./University of Wisconsin) and Tyler Ruegsegger (Lakewood, Colo./University of Denver) are alternate captains ... vanRiemsdyk (1-1--2), Kyle Okposo (1-1--2), Ruegsegger (0-2--2) and Bill Sweatt (0-2--2) each recorded multiple-point games.
After seizing a 3-1 lead, Sweden was forced to weather Slovakia's all-out assault in the third period before tallying the deciding goal in the final five minutes of a thrilling 4-3 win.
Slovakia got on the board first, off a five-on-three just 2:10 into the game. Sweden responded with Robin Figren's shorthanded tally and added to their lead with a power-play goal six minutes later. Figren scored again off a backhand with a man advantage to make it a 3-1 with just over 12 minutes left. Slovakia then got back-to-back goals by Ivan Rohac and Tomas Marcinko 1:19 apart to tie the game at three.
With under five minutes to play, Sweden quickly cashed in on a power-play as Johan Alcen put in a rebound of Patrick Berglund's shot. In all, Sweden's special teams regristered three power-play goals and a shorthanded tally while proving to be the difference.
Sweden plays Denmark on Friday. Slovakia faces Canada tomorrow.