After consecutive losses to Russia and Canada, Nashville Predators prospect Jimmy Vesey and Team USA held their fate in their own hands going into the last day of the preliminary round of the 2013 WJC. Win, and they would go on to the medal round; lose, and it would be off to fight against Latvia and Germany to avoid relegation. Nobody wants to sit at the kids’ table in this tournament, so it was time to put on a performance against a Slovakian squad that had played tougher than expected against both Canada and Russia earlier in the tournament.
Team USA coach Phil Housley made some changes to the lineup heading into the game. One that had an impact was giving more ice time to Jimmy Vesey. Vesey made the most of the opportunity and finally notched his first points of the tournament. With the game tied 1-1 in the opening period, Vesey picked up assists on three consecutive goals as USA went on to crush Slovakia 9-3. That included setting up this nifty Jake McCabe goal that beat Slovak goalie Adam Nagy before he could react to the puck:
That goal ended up being the game-winner in a victory that helped to push the Americans into sole possession of third place in the Group B standings. That was the cutoff for inclusion in the medal round, meaning Team USA technically still has a chance to win the 2013 WJC. And if Jimmy Vesey is given a chance to make a difference like he was today, we might see even more point production from the Harvard freshman.
Team USA’s next matchup is in the quarterfinal against the Czech Republic. The Czechs finished second in Group A with a record of 2 wins, 1 overtime win, and 1 loss. But they had the lowest goal total of any medal-round qualifier and only outscored their opponents by 2 goals. By contrast, the Americans won 2 games and lost 2 in regulation while posting the second-highest offensive numbers of the preliminary round and outscoring their opponents by 12 goals.
The USA-Czech Republic game will air live on the NHL Network at 4 a.m. ET/3 a.m. CT. The game will also be available streaming at NHL.com.