After a pair of disappointing 2-1 losses to Russia and Canada, the US offense returned with gusto in a must-win game against Slovakia with a resounding 9-3 win to advance the United States to the medal round of the World Junior Championships. The US got multi-goal games from Johnny Gaudreau and Vince Trocheck, along with with multi-point games from Jim Vesey, Jake McCabe, Alex Galchenyuk, and JT Miller.
With the win, the United States finishes with two wins and two losses in pool play, good for six points and a third place finish in their group. That is good enough to advance them to the quarterfinals where they face off against the Czech Republic, who finished second in the other group.
Preliminary round play went pretty much as expected across the board, with the exception of Finland, who after winning pre-tournament games against Canada and the US, finished fourth in their pool, and will have to play in the relegation round, rather than having a shot at a medal.
It's tough to get a feel for the United States' medal chances heading into the quarterfinals. Their offense looked pretty good against two teams they should have beaten, and just dreadful in their two toughest games. The good news about playing in a group with arguably the top two teams in the tournament in Canada and Russia is that they end up with a little friendlier draw in the quarterfinals, playing a Czech Republic team that is very good, but still beatable. Their quarterfinal match-up with the Czechs will take place sometime on January 2nd.