USA Drops WCH 2016 Opener to Team Europe, 3-0

The US went up to Toronto to kick off preliminary round action against Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and came away empty handed.

Neither Devil playing in the tournament was dressed for the US, as both Cory Schneider and Kyle Palmieri were healthy scratches along with Dustin Byfuglien. Luca Sbisa, Mikkel Boedker and Thomas Greiss were scratched for the European team. Ben Bishop dressed as the backup goalie for Team USA.

New Jersey hockey connections were still there, however, despite both Devils being scratched. Forward James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Middletown native, was a minus-2 on the night with one shot on goal, two hits, a giveaway and two takeaways in a total of 14:17 of ice time. Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, who grew up in Colonia, was a minus-1 with one shot on goal, a hit and a blocked shot in 22:54 of ice time.

Jonathan Quick got the start in net for the visiting US squad, making 14 saves on 17 shots for a .824 save percentage. Jaroslav Halak was a perfect 35-for-35 for a 1.000 save percentage. He was named the game’s first star.

The game was pretty even across the board, with the Americans leading with a 55% faceoff percentage and both teams going 0-for-4 on the power play. The US outhit the Europeans 25 to 19 while Europe blocked ten more shots than the US 18 to 8.

Marian Gaborik got the tournament scoring kicked off, burying the puck behind Quick at 4:19 of the first period off a nice feed from Frans Nielsen. Mats Zuccarello had the secondary assist. Steve Levy of ESPN said that Gaborik has the most NHL goals of any player playing in this tournament and he showed why there. Team Europe was up 1-0 going into the first intermission.

The rest of the scoring came in the second period. Leon Draisaitl put Europe up 2-0, getting helpers from Nino Niederreiter and Tobias Rieder. The third and final goal of the afternoon came off the stick of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (from Jannik Hansen and Christian Ehrhoff).

For the US, Ryan Kesler led the scoresheet in penalty minutes; with four (he took a holding the stick call midway through the first and a tripping call early in the second) while Ehrhoff took four minutes in penalties for Team Europe: he was called for tripping late in the second and interference late in the third).

While European goaltender Jaroslav Halak was the game’s first star, Gaborik was the second star of the night and Anze Kopitar was named third star.

The US will next play Team Canada on Tuesday at 8 PM in a highly anticipated game, while Team Europe faces the Czech Republic on Monday at 3 PM. Canada plays the Czechs later tonight at 8 PM.

The other group stage kicks off tomorrow, with Sweden taking on Russia at 3 PM and Team North America opposing Finland in the nightcap at 8 PM.

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