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World Junior Championship notebook: USA avoids scare, Slovakia keeps Kazakhstan at bay

The Germans put an early scare into USA and had a second period surge, but the Americans managed to put one in the win column. Meanwhile, Slovakia hung on for a narrow victory over Kazakhstan.

Zegras the difference-maker as USA tops Germany
It was far from pretty, but the United States secured its first win of the tournament with a 6-3 victory over Germany.

For the fourth time in the tournament, the Americans surrendered a power-play goal against. This time, 2020 draft prospects Tim Stutzle and John-Jason Peterka linked up with the man advantage, with Peterka connecting on the one-timer to send Germany to an early lead. It was the Germans' first goal against the United States since Dec. 26, 2008, with the Americans outscoring Germany 26-0 in the four meetings over that span. But five minutes after Germany got out to the lead, USA's Jordan Harris blasted a puck through traffic and beat Tobias Ancicka, knotting the game at one. Zac Jones scored another in the dying minutes to give USA the 2-1 lead after 20.

Midway through the second period, however, the Americans surprisingly found themselves behind. Peterka scored another power-play marker less than three minutes into the second, which was followed less than six minutes later by Dominik Bokk putting Germany ahead. Fortunately for the Americans, the Trevor Zegras Show took over late in the period. After recording two assists early, he set up Shane Pinto for his third goal of the tournament, and Zegras found Curtis Hall with 1:29 left in the second to put USA back in the driver's seat.

The Germans didn't have the pace to keep up in the third period, and a pair of American goals sealed the deal. At 47:18, Bobby Brink scored on the man advantage and Oliver Wahlstrom added another three minutes later. It was enough to secure the comeback victory for USA, who moved to 1-1 after an unspectacular start to the tournament.

Kazakhs offer up a fight, but Slovaks hold on for win
Last year, Slovakia avoided relegation by crushing Kazakhstan 11-2. This year, it was a different story, but the same result: the Slovaks only narrowly defeated the Kazakhs, eking out a 3-1 win.

Special teams made the difference, much as it did in the victories for Canada and the Czech Republic Thursday. Slovakia's Oliver Okuliar scored with the man advantage at 24:49 after 2020 draft prospect Samuel Knazko set him up for a one-timer near the net. Then, five minutes later, Maxim Musorov – Kazakhstan's top player in the outing – was rewarded when he utilized the extra space on the 5-on-4 to skate with the puck before sending a laser wrister past Slovakia's Samuel Hlavaj.

But Kazakhstan's inability to score on two late power plays proved costly. After Slovakia killed off both penalties, Daniel Vladimir Tkac deposited a Michal Mrazik feed at the side of the net to give Slovakia the 2-1 lead. Robert Dzugan scored an empty netter to seal the deal for Slovakia.

Kazakhstan's hopes to make the quarterfinal appear to over, assuming it doesn't take a shocking victory over Sweden or Finland to close out the round-robin. Slovakia will attempt to take down Finland in early match-up that will kick off Saturday's action in Trinec.

Draft Watch
German forward Tim Stutzle is expected to go in the top 10 of the 2020 draft, and he showed exactly why with a fantastic feed to set up John-Jason Peterka on the man advantage to open the scoring against USA. Stutzle showcased his smarts with the puck, allowing him to make the right passes and not just the easy ones, and he dangled himself out of trouble on a few occasions early. Since Germany has the weakest scoring crop in Group B, Stutzle will be relied on to put points on the board often.

Three Stars

  1. Trevor Zegras, USA (0G, 4G, 4P) – Zegras, playing on USA's fourth line, had all the moves, posting four assists in a mere 4:44 of ice time across the first two periods. Maybe, just maybe, he should play a bit more.
  2. John-Jason Peterka, Germany (2G, 0A, 2P) – Two power-play goals helped the Germans strike fear in USA.
  3. Maxim Musorov, Kazakhstan (1G, 0A, 1P) – It didn't matter in the end, but Musorov gave Kazakhstan a fighting chance. He now has three of Kazakhstan's four goals in the tournament.

On Tap

Saturday — Dec. 28, 2019
Kazakhstan vs. Slovakia, 9 a.m. ET
U.S. vs. Germany, 1 p.m. ET

Sunday – Dec. 20, 2019
Slovakia vs. Finland, 9 a.m. ET
Czech Republic vs. Germany, 9 a.m. ET
Canada vs. Russia, 1 p.m. ET
Switzerland vs. Sweden, 1 p.m. ET

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