OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Belarus handed the U.S. Men’s National Team its first loss of the 2015 IIHF Men’s World Championship by a 5-2 count here today at a noisy CEZ Arena.
Brock Nelson (Warroad, Minn./New York Islanders) and Torey Krug (Livonia, Mich./Boston Bruins) both scored for the U.S., while Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass./Boston Univ.) picked up a pair of assists.
Team USA is now 3-0-0-1 and will face Denmark tomorrow at 8:15 p.m.
“Give Belarus credit,” said Todd Richards, head coach of the 2015 U.S. Men’s National Team. “They deserved to win the game. I thought they played a very good hockey game. We’ll pause to reflect on the game tonight, but not for long as we have to get ready to play Denmark tomorrow night.”
It was a scoreless first period, but Team USA nearly got on the board during an early power play in the opening two minutes. Off a rebound of an Eichel shot, Krug’s wrist shot was stopped by the skate of a Belarus defenseman with goaltender Kevin Lalande out of position.
U.S. netminder Jack Campbell (Port Huron, Michigan/Texas Stars), making his second consecutive start, tracked the puck well when tested in the first period. With 8:28 remaining in the opening frame, Campbell made a nice glove save on an Andrei Stepanov scorcher from the point.
The U.S. outshot Belarus 13-7 in the opening stanza. Ben Smith (Avon, Conn./San Jose Sharks) and captain Matt Hendricks (Blaine, Minn./Edmonton Oilers) each contributed three shots on goal.
Nelson created a turnover in the offensive zone 1:41 into the second period, but was robbed trying to go top shelf by Lalande. Minutes later Jimmy Vesey (North Reading, Mass./Harvard) was denied on a breakaway trying to beat the Belarusian goalie on a backhander.
Belarus scored three times in just short of a 5:00 span to race to a 3-0 lead. The first goal came at 11:11 of the second period when Artur Gavrus beat Campbell blocker-side on a breakaway after receiving a well-executed stretch pass off the center boards from Sergei Kostitsyn.
Artyom Volkov scored on a similar play less than two minutes later before Alexander Kitarov put home his own rebound at 16:06.
A sensational play by Eichel pulled the U.S. within 3-1 with 2:39 remaining in the second period. The 2015 Hobey Baker Award winner stripped a Belarusian player on the far boards, showed poise circling the offensive zone with the puck before dishing a slick backhander to Nelson, who found the back of the net. The tally was Nelson’s team-leading third of the tournament.
With the U.S. trying to kill off a five-on-three power play early in the third period, Alexei Kalyuzhny’s shot from the corner deflected off Smith’s stick and past Campbell, increasing the Belarus advantage to 4-1.
The U.S. got back to within 4-2 on the power play at 5:35 when Eichel fed Krug from the goal line and the Boston Bruins defenseman beat Lalande with a shot that found the top right corner of the net. Trevor Lewis (Salt Lake City, Utah/Los Angeles Kings) also received an assist on the play.
Kalyuzhny finished the scoring off a breakaway less than three minutes later, beating Campbell between the pads.
Lalande picked up the win in goal for Belarus with 28 saves, while Campbell had 18 stops for the U.S.
Team USA 2015 IIHF Men’s World Championship Schedule/Results
May 1-17 • Ostrava, Czech Republic
Date Opponent Venue
Tues., April 28 Austria (ex.) Eissportzentrum Kagran W, 4-1
Fri., May 1 Finland CEZ Arena W, 5-1
Sat., May 2 Norway CEZ Arena W, 2-1
Mon., May 4 Russia CEZ Arena W, 4-2
Thurs., May 7 Belarus CEZ Arena L, 2-5
Fri., May 8 Denmark CEZ Arena 8:15 p.m./2:15 p.m.
Sun., May 10 Slovenia CEZ Arena 4:15 p.m./10:15 a.m.
Tues., May 12 Slovakia CEZ Arena 4:15 p.m./10:15 a.m.
Thurs., May 14 Quarterfinals TBD TBD
Sat., May 16 Semifinals O2 Arena TBD
Sun., May 17 Medal Round Game O2 Arena TBD
*Eissportzentrum Kagran in Vienna, Austria; CEZ Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic; O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.