USA Hockey 2014: Not Even the Bridesmaid
Hockey's expanded footprint has greatly increased its talent base.
But in 2014, it's not getting results on international ice.
So far, the American contingent has been medal-free in the World Junior Championships and the Olympics. And now in the IIHF World Championships in Minsk, Belorus, Team USA underachieved a dubious hat trick of sorts by tumbling out of the quarterfinals by dropping a 4-3 decision to the Czech Republic.
The montage of goal highlights, like the score, flatters to deceive:
The Worlds fly under the radar every spring because the Stanley Cup playoffs take center stage, but this is an important competition in terms of seasoning the roster depth for national teams.
Team USA's young players displayed their considerable physical skills in this competition -- and yes, there's a Johnny Hockey on the rise -- but they came up short in the mental acuity department. Captain Justin Abdelkader's senseless head smash on the St Louis Blues' Vladimir Sobotka during the Czech's follow-through of a slapshot set up a five-minute major that produced two power play goals that proved to determine the outcome.
Speaking of Johnny Gaudreau:
He's the reigning Danglemeister, previously for Boston College and currently for the Calgary Flames, and this gem against the Germans serves notice of more to come on highlight packages everywhere.
Abdelkader has established himself with the Detroit Red Wings after a stellar career at Michigan and is an unquestioned leader, but losing his poise against the fundamentally sound, Jaromir Jagr-led Czechs was not a good example of it. His ejection shortened an American bench that started strong but sputtered after his hit on Sobotka.
Sparks finally rekindled in the fading moments when Tyler Johnson struck for two quick ones as a coda to sterling team puck movement and initiative that should have been present for the entire game.
But it wasn't. Maybe these dudes are pros now, but they've still got much to learn.