Team USA Off To A Flying Start in WJC

The heavily favored Americans began pool play in group B on Tuesday against Norway. Newly promoted Norway surprisingly kept it scoreless with the stacked Americans until Jimmy Snuggerud scored at the midway mark. That sparked the U.S. to a 4-1 win on Day One of the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship in Gothenburg. Gavin Brindley also stepped up with two second-period goals.

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The result was supposed to be more lopsided. The Norwegians last competed at the World Juniors in 2014. Although they were outshot 44-23, this effort gives them reason for optimism. Under head coach David Carle, the U.S. seeks its sixth all-time World Junior gold medal. The Americans last won this tournament in 2021, blanking host Canada 2-0 in the final. They earned the 2023 World Junior bronze medal with a wild 8-7 overtime win over Sweden in Halifax.

On To The Action

U.S. goalie Trey Augustine had a busier outing than expected, recording 22 saves for the win. With eight returning players and 10 NHL first-round picks, the U.S. entered their opener versus Norway as a prohibitive favorite. Yet underestimating opponents is dangerous at this level.

In the first period, Norway got momentum from weathering an early U.S. power play. The newcomers caught coach Dan Carle’s squad off guard with their speed and work ethic and pressured Augustine just before the buzzer. Despite outshooting Norway 14-10, the U.S. frequently missed the net.

Norwegian starter Markus Stensrud shone in the net, denying Frank Nazar on a clearcut break early in the middle frame. However, coach Christer Nylund’s boys failed to score on a brief two-man advantage, and Augustine turned away Michael Brandsegg-Nygard on a mid-game breakaway. Then the tide turned in America’s favor.

Snuggerud got a pass from Seamus Casey at the hash marks and pivoted to fling the puck past Stensrud at 9:59. The 19-year-old University of Minnesota sniper, who was second in U.S. scoring last year with 13 points, twirled his stick with a touch of swagger the Americans needed right then.

Five minutes later, Brindley made it 2-0 with a power-play one-timer assisted by Gabe Perreault. At 16:33, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect went bar down on the short side for his second goal at Frolundaborg.

In the third period, Petter Vesterheim stole the puck shorthanded from Perreault at the Norwegian blue line and cut the deficit to 3-1 with a nice breakaway goal at 4:18.

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Norway’s elation only lasted 25 seconds as Isaac Howard, from the bumper position, tipped in a Cutter Gauthier feed to restore the three-goal American lead. Shots favored the U.S. 18-2 in the third.  The U.S.’s record against Norway improved to seven wins and one loss (6-5 in 1990). The last time these nations squared off was 18 years ago. The Americans romped to an 11-2 Boxing Day win in Vancouver. Times have changed.

The U.S. plays Switzerland on Thursday.

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.