OSTRAVA, Czech Republic, May 14 — For the second straight game, Avon’s Ben Smith had the opening goal for the United States in a world championship tournament game. Smith, a forward for the San Jose Sharks, scored his first international goal on Tuesday in the Americans’ 3-1 win over Slovakia.
On Thursday, Smith and Charlie Coyle (Minnesota Wild) scored goals 57 seconds apart in the second period to lift the Americans to a 3-1 win over Switzerland in the quarterfinals at the 2015 IIHF world championships. Team USA (7-1) will face Russia in the semifinals on Saturday at 1:15 p.m., Eastern. The game will be available online at NBC Live Extra and be televised on a tape delay basis on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) at 11 p.m. Saturday night.
“I thought overall we had a really solid effort,” said U.S. head coach Todd Richards. “We fell behind 1-0 after the first period, but I thought we played a pretty good period. Our goaltender (Connor Hellebuyck) made some good saves early in the second period and when we got that first goal, I thought things started to change. This team continues to find a way to win and I’m really proud of the group.”
As expected, it was a tight-checking first period with quality scoring chances difficult to come by. Despite a 9-4 shots-on-goal advantage, the U.S. trailed 1-0 after 20 minutes.
Smith put the U.S. on the board with just under 10 minutes to go in the second period. Jimmy Vesey (Harvard) showed his speed, circling the net and sending a perfect pass to Smith in the slot, who beat Berra low to the left side with a quick wrister. Milford’s Mark Arcobello (Arizona Coyotes) started the play, collecting a loose puck near the blue line and passing to Vesey.
Fifty-seven seconds later, Coyle gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead, tipping a Jones blast from the doorstep past Berra. Anders Lee (New York Islanders) was credited with the second assist.”It was a big momentum boost for our whole team,” said alternate captain Trevor Lewis of the two quick goals. “That’s the kind of second period that we needed. We executed and we kept things a lot more simple tonight.”
Although the U.S. couldn’t capitalize on a third period power play, Jake Gardiner (Toronto Maple Leafs) scored shortly thereafter sending a shot from the high point past Berra with Lee providing the screen in front to make it 3-1. Lee outworked a defender behind the Swiss net and got the puck to Coyle who found Gardiner at the blue line.
Hellebuyck (St. John’s/AHL) made 21 saves to win his sixth game of the world championship.
“We’re all really excited,” said Hellebuyck. “I’m really exhausted because they played a really good game against us. I thought we really bought into our system and played the way we want to play.”
NOTES: Smith skated 16 shifts and played 12:20. … Team USA has won seven of its eight games in the world championship. No U.S. team has ever won eight games in a single world championship. With today’s victory, the 2015 U.S. Men’s National team ties the 2013 (bronze medal) and 1939 (silver medal) for most wins in a single world championship … Hellebuyck has had exactly 21 saves in each of the last four games … The U.S. outshot Switzerland 24-22. … The Americans beat Russia in Group B play on May 4 by a 4-2 score.