USA Hockey National Office staff sending their wishes to Team USA.
The U.S. National Junior Team dropped two heartbreaking losses to Russia and Canada in the preliminary round of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship here in Ufa, Russia, but rebounded with wins in two elimination games.
After rolling to a 7-0 victory over Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, Team USA squares off with rival Canada in the semifinals with a berth in the gold medal game on the line.
The key for Team USA, players and coaches said, is that they are continuing to improve with each game and captain Jake McCabe said he doesn't think the team has played its best hockey yet.
"I still don't think anyone has seen as our best hockey" McCabe said. "The team that improves the most throughout the tournament is the team that generally wins the tournament so I think that's what we're shooting for."
Housley said he likes that the power play has come to life, Team USA scored five power play goals against Czech Republic.
"In one game eliminations or moving forward to the semis, special teams are going to be important." "I thought the games against Russia and Canada we didn't get that, but our penalty kill was playing well and now both aspects of our game are going very well and hopefully that trend continues."
Overall Canada and the U.S. are first and second in scoring efficiency, and Team USA owns the tournament's best power play and penalty kill. Special teams came up big against Czech Republic and will be vital Thursday again.
Jacob Trouba and Alex Galchenyuk lead Team USA with eight points each. Trouba and recent power play defensive partner Seth Jones (seven points) are the top two scoring defensemen in the tournament.
In goal the U.S. has arguably the best goaltender in the tournament in John Gibson. Canada's Malcolm Subban claimed round one in the preliminary game, but that close battle was not lost in the goaltending department by Team USA. Most fans are expecting another goaltending showdown.
Canada's star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads all scorers with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) and scored a goal against Team USA earlier in the tournament. His playmaking abilities and talent for finding open space will be a key area of focus during U.S. coaches and players meetings Thursday morning as they prepare for the game.
One factor that as been noted by media at the game is that the Russian crowd seems to favor the U.S. over Canada. Late in the preliminary round game with Team USA trying to rally down 2-1 in the third, the Russians briefly started a "USA" chant and then their traditional "Shaibu" chant saved for their national team. The Ufa Arena can be loud and could provide the big game atmosphere that can propel this game to an even bigger stage.
The game will be aired live on NHL Network-U.S. and on NHL.com at 4 a.m. ET. Fans can also follow a live game blog and join the conversation on USAHockey.com.
|Dec. 20||Sweden (Exhib.)||W, 3-2 OT||Photos|
|Dec. 22||Finland (Exhib.)||L, 1-5||Photos|
|Dec. 27||Germany||W, 8-0||Photos
|Dec. 28||Russia||L, 1-2||Photos
|Dec. 30||Canada||L, 1-2||Photos
|Dec. 31||Slovakia||W, 9-3||Photos
|Jan. 2||Czech Republic
Gold Medal Game
Dublin buddies to share another stage as NHL draft picks (Jan. 4)
Whitehall's Gibson leads Team USA past Canada (Jan. 4)
Momentum trumping rest for resurgent Americans (Jan. 4)
One-on-one with Alex Galchenyuk (Jan. 3)
Fast start delivers Americans shot at gold (Jan. 3)
McCabe leads rousing win over Canada (Jan. 3)
Miller, Team USA ruling the world (Jan. 3)
Barber, Kuraly making Miami history (Jan. 3)
Trocheck, Pittsburgh kids hungry for Canada (Jan. 2)
One-on-One with Seth Jones (Jan. 2)
One-on-One with John Gaudreau (Jan. 2)
United States ready for rematch against Canada (Jan. 2)
USA hitting stride just in time for semis (Jan. 2)
Reilly outgrew worries about size (Jan. 2)
Offensive outburst carries USA into WJC semifinals (Jan. 2)
Discipline, forecheck winning formula for U.S. (Jan. 1)
Seth Jones: Greetings from Ufa (Jan. 1)
USA to rely on stingy defense in quarterfinal (Jan. 1)
Gostisbehere opening eyes at World Junior Championship (Dec. 31)
Nothing Settled on Final Day of Prelim Round (Dec. 31)
Setting the Stage for U.S. vs Canada (Dec. 30)
USA Faces 'Very Special' Canada (Dec. 30)
What it All Means for U.S., Canada after Two Games (Dec. 30)
USA vs. Canada Sparks Old Rivalry (Dec. 29)
Tyler Biggs Has Roots in Football (Dec. 29)
U.S. Aims to Bounce Back (Dec. 28)
Phil Housley guides strong Team USA (Dec. 28)
Flyers pick, Gostisbehere, scores in U.S. rout of Germany (Dec. 28)
Rangers prospect, Miller, scores for U.S. in win vs. Germany (Dec. 28)
Western PA hockey stars pace Team USA to opening win (Dec. 27)
Galchenyuk decidedly American (Dec. 27)
U.S. needs puck support, short memories (Dec. 27)
U.S. routs Germany 8-0 in WJC opener (Dec. 27)
Team USA harmonic under Phil (Dec. 26)
Vesey develops his game by playing for Team USA (Dec. 26)
Pietila trades GLI for USA (Dec. 26)
Vesey, Grzelcyk come full circle with Team USA in Ufa (Dec. 24)
Team USA and their not-so-typical dads (Dec. 23)
Seth Jones Hopes to Lead Team USA Back to Prominence (Dec. 21)
Seth Jones a Rising Hockey Star Has NBA DNA (Dec. 20)
Team USA's Big Scores Come in Small Sizes (Dec. 20)
Galchenyuk on a Roll Heading into World Junior Play (Dec. 20)
Team USA's World Juniors cofidence comes from their defense (Dec. 18)
Jones Ready for Break-Out Performance at First WJC (Dec. 18)
Grimaldi Seeks Big Role on Team USA (Dec. 18)
Vital Facts About U.S. National Junior Team (Dec. 18)
USA's Gaudreau Chases the Hobey Baker (Dec. 18)
Miler looks to lead Team USA (Dec. 17)
Jones Read to be Key Contributor (Dec. 17)
Housley Wants U.S. to Find Chemistry before WJC (Dec. 17)
Connor Murphy Healthy and Happy (Dec. 16)
Galchenyuk Could Be U.S. Star at WJC (Dec. 16)
Coach Housley on Minnesota Wild PONDcast (Dec. 5)
Housley Coaching Podcast (Dec. 5)
GM Jim Johannson CBC's Hockey Night in Canada Radio (Dec. 5)
Coach Phil Housley on NHL Network's Hockey This Morning (Dec. 5)
GM Jim Johannson on NHL Network's Power Play (Dec. 4)
Ability to adapt important asset for Bardreau (Dec. 4)
First-round picks dot U.S. selection camp roster (Dec. 4)
UND's Grimaldi on World Juniors roster (Dec. 4)
Union's Gostisbehere makes Team USA preliminary roster (Dec. 4)
Jets prospect Trouba ready to take on the world (Dec. 4)
World Juniors Rewind: Ryan Bourque Reflects on Gold Medal (Dec. 3)
Seth Jones an NHL icon in waiting (Nov. 28)
Coach Phil Housley with Edmonton Team1260's Jason Strudwick (Nov. 28)