Malmo, Sweden - International hockey tournaments, it's said, begin in the quarterfinals. Luckily for the U.S. National Junior Team, that addage is drilled in and reinforced on a roster packed with players who have worn the stars and stripes scores of times.
After a 3-2 loss to Canada to finish the group stage of this year's tournament, players and head coach Don Lucia made clear that they are not going to let the defeat to their rival derail their pursuit of a gold medal.
"The guys have been through the process," Lucia said. "We're dissapointed we didn't get the game to overtime and win the pool, but at the same time there are no easy games at this point in the tournament ... it's all about getting ourselves mentally and physically prepared to play in two days."
Team USA has 15 players with international experience at IIHF world championships and have seen their share of ups and downs in those tournaments.
"I think (experience) should help us going forward," said Jack Eichel, who at just 17 years old already has 11 games in the U.S. jersey at a world championship. "Now it's just sudden death, you have to win them all."
U.S. captain Riley Barber said the tournament begins with the next game, a quarterfinal clash with Russia on Thursday at 6 a.m. ET, but conceded that the loss still stings.
"It sucks to lose," he said before adding that the road to gold doesn't always go perfectly, alluding to the 2013 team that finished round robin 2-2. "We're not too worried about it, but we'll go back to the drawing board and maybe change some things."
It was Barber who gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead on a shorthanded goal in the second period. Canada would respond with three consecutive goals, all scored inside the dots in vital scoring areas.
The key to rebounding in the quarterfinals and beyond is putting bodies in front of the net and scoring the "greasy" goals, players said.
"That blue paint is huge, in our zone and in the offensive zone we have to get there," said Tommy DiPauli.
Team USA has New Year's Day off before continuing its bid for a second consecutive gold medal. Watch Thursday's game live on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com
Twenty-Two Players to Compete at 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta.