24 Thoughts On USA 4-1 Win Over Norway In Tournament Opener

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IHOCKEY-JUNIOR-USA-NOR / ADAM IHSE/TT/GettyImages
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Team USA Opened their World Junior tournament against the Norwegians on Boxing Day.

Below I will write 24 thoughts about my viewing of their performance in chronological order from period one and so on. It's heavily expected that the Americans are the favourite to win gold this year; utilizing their depth and elite talent throughout their roster. From the top to the bottom, the Americans were assembled to win and anything less would be a disappointment.

Loaded with NHL drafted talents, NHL scouts will have plenty to watch, evaluate and assess. While the first game will show nerves, and cobwebs until the teams find their footing. There will definitely be goals, and plenty of offence.

Here are 24 thoughts on the American's first game of the tournament that counts. With the puck dropping at 11:05 a.m. Eastern time.

First Period Thoughts

The American coaching staff called on the trio of - Rutger McGroarty - Cutter Gauthier - Jimmy Snuggerud to take the opening faceoff. The USA called on the defence pair of - Lane Hutson & Ryan Chesley to start the game on the blueline. Not only will the starting five be relied upon in this game, but throughout the entire tournament in all likelihood, as well. Trey Augustine got the nod between the pipes.

The Norwegians played Hutson tough knowing his capabilities if he finds open space. In typical Hutson fashion, it didn't matter, he was still dangerous and elusive with the puck. His ability to scan, process and execute is so fast, it's like he think five steps ahead of his opponents.

McGoarty, Snuggerud and Gauthier had Norway on their heels, and rightfully so. All three of the forwards have quick strike ability. They can play any way that they need to, but they all like to challenge goalies from far with their heavy accurate shots.

I have to admit, it was disappointing that Boston University Commit Cole Eiserman was left off the team The Americans have relied on brilliant shooters in the past, like Cole Caufield, Arthur Kaliyev and Auston Matthews before them. They don't lack goal-scoring talent, but I like Eiserman a lot.

It was pretty clear what the USA's gameplan was 10 minutes into the first period, they were going to use their speed to exhaust the opposition. Not only does it push the Norwegians back, but forces them out of position. Naturally, mistakes occur when exhaustion sets in

Just ahead of the 11:00 mark on the board, the Americans had a chance on the man advantage, with Hutson sitting at the top, operating from the blueline. Hutson and Gauthier tried a couple of times for the one-timer, and I think that will translate at some point during the game. Not for lack of trying, but Norway killed off the power play.

With 8:40 remaining Norway started throwing their bodies around, to try and make the U.S. uncomfortable. I would have to think that the Americans were surprised by the speed of the Norwegians. As Craig Button mentioned, however, the Norwegian game relies heavily on their skating, and they have disrupted the American attack.

Isaac Howard was sprung by Frank Nazar, but he came up short. If I can say the American's were stunned, that would be the most accurate word to explain it. The period ends with Ryan Leonard in the penalty box, and the game knotted at zeroes.

Second Period Thoughts

Norway starts the period with just a shade under two minutes worth of powerplay time. It would be in the American's best interest to take a deep breath, sip a little biosteel and reset for period two. A successful penalty kill would go a long way in rebalancing the momentum.

The Americans kept pace with Norway, and defended their net front well, smart defensive sticks discouraged any momentum. Augustine stood tall when needed, but wasn't really tested. The cohesiveness of the American penalty kill resembled a unit that had been together for some time.

USA has another penalty, meaning the first four minutes of the second frame were spent killing penalties. Which meant the Norwegians didn't have to defend all that much. The Americans stuck to their game plan though, and nearly killed off the full two minutes.

Hutson got caught with the can opener on the Norwegians forwards hand. They had 15 seconds of five-on-three play. Fortunately for USA, they killed off the first powerplay, and were doing an earnest job to kill off the second infraction.

With another penalty killed off, the Americans haven't been able to establish any semblance of a forecheck but should feel lucky. They emerged unscathed by the Norwegian offensive attack after spending 3/4 of the first 10 minutes in the penalty box.

Ryan Leonard nearly broke the ice on a very pretty individual effort. Snuggerud just ripped a shot past the Norwegian netminder, after a nasty pass from Seamus Casey. With just under 10 minutes left in the middle period, the U.S. broke the stalemate.

Norway allowed Ryan Leonard to ruffle their feathers and he was successful in drawing a peanlty. Gavin Brindley received a sweet feed from Gabe Perreault, and he fired it quickly over the goalie's blocker. 2-0 lead with 6:00 to go in the period, and the USA energy drew another powerplay.

With five minutes to go in the period, Norway was pushing hard for a goal, so USA had to play smart. Brindley found some open space and patiently looked for his spot. He wired his shot under the bar with 3:26 to go.

Third Period Thoughts

Fortunately for Norway, Leonard took a penalty with 1:13 to go in the second period. Down 2-0, they were lucky to start the final period down by just two goals. The Norwegians will have a bit of powerplay time that carries over from the middle frame.

In search of his hat trick goal, Brindley started the period for the Americans on the penalty kill. Michael Brandsegg Nygard ripped a nice shot, but Augustine was game. Button raved about the Norwegian, who is projected to be a top pick in the 2024 draft.

Brindley was flying in the first five minutes of the final frame, in high pursuit of his third goal. Norway took a penalty after a great shift in the Norwegian zone. Petter Vesterheim forced a turnover at the blueline and was off to a shorthanded breakway, and he made no mistake.

Gauthier feathered a shot/pass to Isaac Howard who redirected it past the Norwegian netminder. While Norway has played well, the USA has just been so good. The all-world talent has shone brightly.

The game has opened up, and this has played into the American's hands. They have been all over the Norwegians, and have not been shy to fire the biscuit. With just over 10 minutes to play, the Americans went into a heavy play mode, cycling the puck and backchecking hard.

The 4-1 score might surprise anyone who wasn't watching the game, the Norwegians played a strong game and should certainly be able to build off of it. Augustine was tested throughout the first, and he had to be sharp on the penalty kill in the middle frame. He could make an argument for USA's player of the game.

With 2:27 to go in the period, Danny Nelson drew a penalty. Giving Team USA a chance to put the final nail in the Norway coffin. Hutson has been quiet on the statistics sheet, but he has been able to find the American's best shooters for one-timers. Norway killed the penalty off, and the game finished 4-1 USA.

As decided by the IIHF, the American player of the game was Gavin Brindley. He scored twice, and because of the Norwegian player of the game, goaltender Markus Stensrud kept the puck out. Norway did their best to slow the USA's potent offence, but they proved too strong.