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3 ‘Star’ keys to success for United States in WJC against Finland

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The NHL Network will provide exclusive live telecasts of all United States games during the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.

The United States (2-1-0-1) will play Finland (2-0-1-1) in the quarterfinal round of the tournament at Werk Arena in Trinec on Thursday (6:30 a.m. ET; NHLN). After a 4-3 overtime win against Czech Republic on Monday, the United States earned the second seed in the Group B round-robin stage. Finland finished third in Group A. The semifinal round is Saturday, and championship game is on Sunday.

Longtime NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman, who will handle the broadcast along with Stephen Nelson, has been providing his three keys to victory for the United States before each of its games during the 11-day tournament.

“Scoring could be at a premium as Finland plays as close to a North American style game as Canada and the U.S. do,” Starman said. “While games with Canada and Russia have been widely anticipated and discussed in recent world junior tournaments, some of the best games I’ve seen in World Junior Championship play involving the U.S. have been against Finland, going back to the medal-round game in 2010 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“Lines are established, roles are understood, and the path is now clear. The U.S. has won their last three games in four nights, and to win gold they’ll have to repeat that feat and it starts Thursday.”

1. Goaltending

“Spencer Knight was looked upon to run the table for the United States. Following their opening loss to Canada, where he told goalie coach David Lassonde, ‘I’d like all five I gave up, back’, Knight got a day off against Germany and then turned in back-to-back solid performances against Russia and the Czech Republic. He’s looked in control in his past two games; he had great economy of movement, rebound control and made the first saves. Moving forward, Knight will have the net the next game and, for the U.S., hopefully the two after that. The team believes in him, which is huge heading into three-wins-at-all-cost games.”

2. North-South game

“This has also clicked. While some moments have allowed creativity to blossom, this team has taken on the same look of U.S. coach Scott Sandelin’s team at the University of Minnesota Duluth, which has won back-to-back [NCAA] national titles. Puck management has been better. There aren’t as many players trying to make a perfect or highlight-reel play. The U.S. game has been played downhill, with pace, in linear fashion, and pucks have gone to the net. Sandelin and his staff in Duluth have taken two pretty good teams to the promised the last two seasons in the NCAA. He now has a really good team of high-end players playing that same way. That’s buying in!”

3. Under-the-radar guys

“If you make the WJC team, you’re not under the radar, but some players have made more headlines this season than others. Each game seems to unearth someone who breaks out a bit, but Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) has had a breakout tourney that might be remembered for all time if it keeps up. His nine primary assists is off-the-charts good, and he owns the best assist of the tournament thus far. The ‘Arty Party’, Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings), has proven he’s never seen a shot opportunity he hasn’t liked, and his scoring and shot-first mentality has been a huge boost to the American offense. John Beecher (Boston Bruins) has been steady, Jack Drury (Carolina Hurricanes) has been almost lights-out on face-offs since game one (against Canada). The back end of the defense corps has done the job.”

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