Who: United States vs. Switzerland
What: World Juniors quarterfinals
When: 5:30pm EST
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Television: NHL Network/TSN 3/5
United States, 4-0-0-0, 1st place Group B
W vs. Latvia 6-1
W vs. Slovakia 5-2
W vs. Russia 3-2
W vs. Canada 3-1
If you’re just jumping aboard the Team USA bandwagon, things have been going pretty well so far in this tournament for the United States, and as a result, they’ve drawn a quarterfinal match-up against a team they should almost definitely outplay, though outscoring is slightly less of a guarantee.
Top Players: For the US, it all starts with their duo on the top line of Boston University’s Clayton Keller and Boston College’s Colin White. They’ve jumpstarted the offense in each of the first four games and a similar performance in the knockout rounds would be huge for the US. Jordan Greenway has established himself as a secondary scoring option and a threat on the power play. Tage Thompson and Troy Terry give the US the opportunity to attack from any line.
In Goal: Tyler Parsons and Joseph Woll alternated starts in the preliminary round and both were very good. If that rotation continues, Parsons would get the nod tonight. Both goalies have been excellent though.
Switzerland, 0-2-0-2, 4th place Group A
W vs. Czech Republic 4-3(OT)
L vs. Sweden 4-2
W vs. Denmark 5-4(SO)
L vs. Finland 2-0
Switzerland has long been on the rise as a hockey country. They’re not quite a major player on the international hockey scene yet, but if we’re being honest, they probably have more claim to being in the “Big 7” of international hockey than Slovakia does these days.
This year’s Swiss team reflects their growing ascendance. They opened the tournament with a big win over the Czech Republic and played respectable against the big boys in their group, but also had a bit of a tough time with Denmark.
They don’t have nearly the depth to go toe-to-toe with a team like the United States, but have a solid handful of NHL Draft picks on their roster, and a potential young star in Nico Hischier. They’re not a threat for a gold medal yet, but there’s enough talent to make you feel nervous if you run into them on the wrong day.
Top Players: Expect to hear the name Jonas Siegenthaler a lot. The big, mobile defenseman will likely only leave the ice for the occasional water break. Their top offensive threat is 17-year-old Nico Hischier, who is a very skilled, creative player. NHL draft picks Damien Riat and Calvin Thurkauf will also play key roles in their offense, and the speed of Marco Miranda could present a match-up problem for the US defense.
In Goal: Joren Van Pottelberghe, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, has played every minute of the tournament for Switzerland and that likely won’t change tonight. This is his second time at the World Juniors and he has turned in some incredible performances, including taking Canada to overtime at last year’s tournament in a game where the Swiss were heavily outshot.
Keys to a US victory
- Stay disciplined
If there has been any complaint about the US play during the preliminary round, it is that they took too many penalties, including going down two men twice versus Canada. The US is likely to carry the play at 5-on-5, but it could be a big equalizer if Switzerland gets a few opportunities and are able to capitalize on them.
2. Don’t settle for easy shots
I would expect a fair amount of offensive zone time for the United States. It’s important that they take that opportunity to generate quality, high percentage scoring chances rather than settling for easy shots and letting Van Pottelberghe settle into a rhythm.
3. Put the game away early
Games like this usually tend to go one of two ways. Either the favorite builds an early lead and runs away with it, or the underdog is able to hang around long enough that it is a tight game all the way through. I think we’d all prefer if this game was the former rather than the latter.