3 Star keys for United States against Slovakia in WJC quarterfinals

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The NHL Network will air every game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

It includes comprehensive coverage of the United States national junior team (3-0-0-1), which will play Slovakia (1-0-1-2) in the quarterfinal round of the tournament on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET). After a 4-0 win against Sweden on Thursday, the United States earned the first seed in the Group B preliminary-round stage. Slovakia finished fourth in Group A. The semifinal round is Monday and championship game is Tuesday.

Longtime NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman, who will handle the broadcast along with Stephen Nelson, will give his three keys to victory for the United States before each of its games during the 12-day tournament.

“The United States is in a very good place right now because everything is working,” Starman said. “They’ve been hard on pucks, have been aggressive. They’re playing smart and most importantly they are playing as 5-man units as opposed to being plagued by individual play, which has happened to many of their good teams in the past.

“The win over Sweden (4-0 on Thursday) was efficient, methodical, surgical, and total. Sweden had some life in spurts, but the U.S. did a nice job pushing back when Sweden made its hay with some good offensive pressure and, behind it all, their goaltending was good.”

Here are Starman’s 3 keys to victory for the United States against Slovakia:

 

1. Who plays goal?

“There’s no decision that can be more overthought, especially in the position the U.S. is in with two good goalies. This should not even be a discussion, though. Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) was your number one coming in and was the guy to help you win Group B. It’s playoff time … play your guy. Knight was good against Sweden. A few too many rebounds were left, but my feeling is if your goalie is leaving rebounds, he’s stopping the puck. Knight looked smooth, and he passed the eyeball test. Unless there is something brewing under the surface no one knows about, watch for Knight to play another tune-up game for Jan 4. If you get up big, put Dustin Wolf (Calgary Flames) in to keep him sharp.”

 

2. Berard-Farinacci-Brink line

“The forward line consisting of Brett Berard (New York Rangers), John Farinacci (Arizona Coyotes) and Bobby Brink (Philadelphia Flyers) not only eats minutes but is often on the positive side of their matchup. Their play has allowed the coaching staff to balance the minutes of their top-6 forwards and rest forwards who tend to be effective in big games at this tournament. They cycle, win races, they win 50-50’s, have owned the half walls, have won the offensive net-front, have scored, and they’ve created matchup issues for their opponents, many of whom are overmatched by their tenacity. So long as they remain status quo, the top two lines can keep doing what they’re doing.”

 

3. Keep pedal to the metal

“Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks) gets the attention for what he’s doing and deservedly so but no line can succeed without a great center and Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings) has played a 200-foot game that has given his linemates time and space to make plays. As I said earlier and prior to the Sweden game, Turcotte was about to break out. He scored and continued to play his heavy, effective game. Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) is keeping pace and he draws attention due to his shot, but he could be the next one to announce his presence with authority.

“My feeling is whether or not the United States starts well, which most Nate Leaman-coached teams tend to do, or they have trouble getting up for a non-rival, they know that by the 35-minute mark of this one, it should be in their favor. Then it becomes big boy hockey [in the semifinals].”

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