Montreal Canadiens: 24 Thoughts On USA's 10-2 Statement Win Over Slovakia

United States of America v Canada: 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
United States of America v Canada: 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Lane Hutson, Jacob Fowler and the Americans are set to face their toughest matchup yet against Filip Mesar and the undefeated Slovakians.

The New Year's Eve matchup is highly anticipated, as the Americans have looked excellent. Despite having no Juraj Slafkovsky or Simon Nemec, Slovakia has also looked fantastic. Intensity should be felt universally throughout the crowd, I fully expect this to have a finals game kind of feel.

Slovakia is looking to go undefeated through the round-robin portion of the tournament. While the USA is trying to overtake Slovakia for the top spot in Group B. Slovakia is ahead by one point, but with a regulation win, the Americans would earn three points - extending a two-point lead between their opponents.

Here are my 24 thoughts on the New Year's Eve tilt between Team USA and Team Slovakia.

First Period

Jimmy Snuggerud won't be in the lineup, because of flu-like symptoms. Trey Augustine and Seamus Casey will slot back into the lineup. Adam Gajan is also out, Samuel Urban gets the nod for Slovakia between the pipes and Augustine for the USA.

In the absence of Snuggerud, Oliver Moore slotted in alongside Rutger McGroarty and Cutter Gauthier. Slovakia didn't suffer much from their goaltending swap, considering how much they trust in their structure. A certain level of confidence is required for such a decision and Urban has the coach's trust.

Nearing the five minutes of play mark, the game remains knotted at goose eggs (0-0). Both teams have been working earnestly on the forecheck and backcheck. The energy and speed of the game is very high and quick. It will take an unlucky bounce or poor puck play to draw first blood and pull ahead with a 1-0 lead.

The USA with 19 goals and Slovakia with 17 led the tournament in that respect, and Rutger McGroarty padded the American lead with the icebreaker. McGroarty made a quick decision to fire the biscuit, and it paid off with his first of the tournament. Oliver Moore and Ryan Chesley drew the assists on the opening tally.

After a couple of mismanaged puck clears and an unfortunate friendly deflection off of Lane Hutson resulted in a 1-1 tie. Marian Mosko pulled Slovakia even just before the 11-minute mark of the frame. Peter Repcik had the lone assist on the game-tying goal.

Zeev Buium came into the zone as a second layer to the offence and behind Gavin Hayes, he followed up on the screen with a quick snapshot. The Slovaks challenged the play, and it was dependent upon whether Hayes tried to avoid Urban or not. Urban was unquestionably bumped into, but it's a matter now of what the referees decide. Good goal for Buium - 2-0 USA - Rinzel and Hayes with the assists.

The Americans earned a powerplay for the unsuccessful coach's challenge. Hutson and the USA moved the puck around well, but Urban was square to the puck each time. Thankfully for Slovakia, their goaltender showed up to play. Slovakia back to the penalty kill with seven minutes to go in the period.

Maxim Strbak and the Slovakians went 2-for-2 on the penalty kill to keep within one goal of a tie game. Drew Fortescue to the sin bin for two minutes at 3:59 of the frame. Hayes was assessed a match penalty for a knee-on-knee hit on Milan Pisoja. Hayes got five and a game.

Second Period

Slovakia was unable to draw even before the intermission, but they had close to three minutes of power play time carrying over to the second period. Mesar looked dangerous to finish off the first period on the powerplay, and that carried over to the middle frame. If Slovakia draws even, Urban and Mesar's hard work won't go unnoticed.

Gavin Brindley had other ideas, as he flew through the neutral zone in attack mode. He backed up Strbak and fired a nasty wrister over Urban's shoulder. Unbelievable shorthanded tally for the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect. Hutson and Chesley earned the assists.

Down 3-1 with one minute left on the man advantage, the pressure for the Slovakians to score has taken on a new meaning. They pressed for a tally but were unable to crack the USA's penalty kill. Brindley blocked a shot after the power play and was in some noticeable discomfort on the bench.

Pisoja returned to action for a regular shift around the 14:30 mark. Mesar and Servac Petrovsky worked a quick passing play, but Augustine stood his ground. Slovakia isn't going anywhere - there is a reason why these two squads sit atop the standings in pool b.

Mesar forced a turnover at his blueline against Hutson, that doesn't happen very often. Mesar's familiarity with Hutson's skills from the Habs development camp served him well. It wasn't fun to see Hutson turn the puck over, but Mesar's speed and tenacity to force the turnover were a welcomed sight.

Slovakia has forced three of four additional turnovers at their blueline. Team USA will have to clean up their zone entries, they are giving far too many opportunities to Slovakia. They are eventually going to capitalize on their chances.

Not to be a biased Montreal prospect enthusiast too much, but Hutson has had another brilliant performance through nearly five consecutive periods. He has been stout and smart defensively, but a threat to produce offence also. He has looked dangerous and for Team USA, it's perfect timing with the semi and quarter-finals inching closer.

Fortescue finished hard on Slovakian captain Adam Sykora in front of Augustine. Slovakia to the power play for two minutes with 2:49 to go. Mesar played some give-and-go on his strong side, and he flat-out sniped Augustine - impressive shot, wow! Ryan Leonard struck before the end of the period, however, restoring the American's two-goal lead, 30 seconds later.

Third Period

I ran out of room for thoughts in the second period, so being transparent that is why McGroarty's late period marker is in the third period section. The American captain has found his footing. What a scary thought, his line has already been fantastic. 5-2 USA.

Through two periods, the Americans best played has been Augustine, and I would have to think that he will be their player of the game. Lots can change in a period, but the American netminder has been brilliant. He never looks shook or out of position and he is so athletic, difficult stops look routine.

Captain America was feeling like a hat trick was needed, and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Cutter Gauthier agreed. Gauthier made a beautiful behind-the-back pass to McGroarty who fired a quick snapshot past Urban. McGroarty is the second member of his line with a hat trick, only Gauthier remains without one.

Isaac Howard puts the Americans up 7-2, basically cementing USA's place as the top team in pool b. Howard was patient and found some space, then showed off great finishing skills around the net. The tally marked the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect's fourth of the tournament.

Team USA's 26 goals in four games lead the tournament in that respect. Their offence has been unsurprising, but impressive. Adam Gajan needed the rest, but Slovakia needed him more. Eric Pohlkamp scored to put the U.S. up by six goals.

Gauthier scored on the powerplay for his first of the tournament. Hutson's second assist of the game and Frank Nazar drew the second assist. Howard scored his second of the game a few minutes later to hit double digits - Hutson with his third assist of the game.

The player of the game for the United States is Rutger McGroarty and the best player for the Slovaks is Filip Mesar.