3 Star keys to success for United States against Austria at WJC

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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 (0-0-0-1), which will play the second of four preliminary-round games in Group B against Austria (0-0-0-0) on Saturday (9:30 p.m. ET; NHLN). The United States, which lost 5-3 to Russia on Friday, also will play Czech Republic (Dec. 29) and Sweden (Dec. 31). The playoff round begins Jan. 2.

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 their games during the 12-day tournament.

“Game 1 didn’t go as planned but one thing that did emerge is that the United States can generate Grade A chances when they play with pace, urgency and speed,” Starman said. “I found their game a little soft [against Russia] and lack of games played by many of their players could be a factor. Overall, many coaches have discussed their players being poor with spacing awareness due to not having played a lot of 5-on-5 at game speed against top players. That’s not an excuse, that’s reality. 

“There’s no need to panic but there are a few things that probably had the coaches burning the midnight oil.”

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

 

1. Five in the frame

“The U.S. defense corps can be as mobile and agile as any in the tournament, if not more so. However, if you get pinned in below your goal line all night, have your face in the glass and no puck support down low, it’s going to be a long night even if you had Brian Leetch, Niklas Lidstrom and Raymond Bourque back there. Support is more important than system or positional play. My opinion, as I watch the game back, is the United States needs better puck support and more ‘five in the frame’ than they got [against Russia]. Winning races, winning 50-50 battles, better puck protection in transition areas … that must happen against every team. It’s not a negotiable item if you want to [finish first].”

 

2. Calling all returning players

“The returning players need to be better. Defenseman Cameron York (Philadelphia Flyers) was voted the best player in the game for the United States [against Russia]. I call it as I see it and forward Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild) was their best player. However, to win games, when discussing best player of the game, names like forwards Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens), Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings), Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks), and goalie Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers) … the returners who know what it takes to win, have to be topping that list.”  

 

3. Climb every mountain

“Someone asked me if this is a ‘trap game’ against Austria in Game 2. I thought trap, Austria, and the Von Trapp family singers from ‘The Sound of Music’ came to mind. That said, the U.S. has a bit of a mountain to climb to get its collective mojo back. This is not a trap game anymore. There are players who have something to prove and this is the game to start doing it. This game, on paper, should not be close. It would be a good game for the top players to crank it into high gear, keep building the foundation and wash away the sting of the loss to Russia.”

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