|Craig Smith Tallies Hat Trick; John Gibson Stops 31 Shots|
HELSINKI – Craig Smith (Madison, Wis./Nashville Predators/Univ. of Wisconsin) scored three times and goaltender John Gibson (Pittsburgh, Pa./Kitchener Rangers) made 31 saves to help the U.S. Men’s National Team to a 4-1 triumph over host Finland here tonight in preliminary round action of the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship.
“It was certainly a terrific win for our team in a hostile environment,” said Joe Sacco, head coach of the U.S. Men’s National Team. “We played a solid game, particularly in the third period. I thought John Gibson was very good in goal and we continue to work hard and build chemistry.”
In front of a sellout crowd of 12,484, Finland took the lead 5:53 into the opening period when Jarno Koskiranta chipped a bouncing puck past Gibson. Team USA evened the score at 17:36 when Smith andDavid Moss (Livonia, Mich./Phoenix Coyotes/Univ. of Michigan) connected on a rush. Moss sped across the blue line, stepped inside a defender at the left circle and fired a low shot that Smith deflected into the net.
Neither team scored in the second period, however, Gibson made a series of saves in the final minutes of the stanza to maintain the stalemate. With 1:47 left, he made perhaps his biggest stop when he dove from post-to-post to deny Juhamatti Aaltonen’s wraparound attempt.
Team USA took the lead for good at 3:22 of the third period when Paul Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./Colorado Avalanche/Univ. of Denver) fed Smith in the right slot for a one-timer that beat goalie Antti Raanta.
Stephen Gionta (Rochester, N.Y./New Jersey Devils/Boston College) provided a 3-1 cushion for the U.S. at 11:29. Nate Thompson (Anchorage, Alaska/Tampa Bay Lightning) skated the puck up the right side and slid it across the circles to Gionta, who wristed the puck between the Raanta’s legs. Seconds earlier, Gibson stopped a partial breakaway to setup the transition opportunity.
Smith scored into an empty net with :42 left to complete his hat trick and seal the third U.S. win in four games at this year’s world championship.
Team USA has two days off before returning to action on Saturday (May 11) vs. France. Faceoff is 1:15 p.m. local time (5:15 a.m. EDT). NBC Sports Network will televise the game live and also stream it live in the United States through NBC Sports Live Extra.