In front of a very empty Rogers Place in Edmonton, Team USA handily defeated Team Germany in the first game of the World Junior Championships. The final score of 5–1 does not even capture the sheer extent of their victory. The team had a 25–4 edge in shots at the end of the first, and a 34–6 edge in shots after the second period. It wasn’t close.
Calgary Flames’ prospect Matt Coronato’s fingerprints were all over this one. The 2021 first-round selection had one big assist in the first period and should have had a goal of his own which was called back. Let’s break it all down.
The US began the game by really taking it to Team Germany. They were relentless on the attack, with every shift generating a scoring chance or two. They also would forecheck excessively, keeping two or sometimes all three forwards in the offensive zone to create turnovers. Were it not for the German netminder, this game could have finished with a double-digit US win.
It took 13 minutes for the US to find the back of the net, but they finally did as Luke Hughes beat German netminder Nikita Quapp from the point.
Germany would take a game misconduct and five minute major penalty just minutes later as Bennet Rossmy crunched an American player in the head against the boards. On the ensuing penalty, Coronato made an incredible feed to Logan Cooley to double the American’s lead. Take a look here.
The penalty would carryover to the second period, and just after it expired, Landon Slaggert would score a sharp-angle shot to add to Team USA’s lead. Slaggert is a teammate of Flames prospect Jake Boltmann at Notre Dame.
From there, Red Savage would add another one from a sharp angle to make it 4–0 for the Americans. Then the US thought they had another one after a scramble in front led to Coronato putting the puck in. It was reviewed for a high stick and after a very lengthy deliberation, was deemed a good goal. Germany would then subsequently challenge for goaltender interference, and after another long review, the goal was called back. Take a look here.
Riley Duran would add a soft goal from the blueline to add to the US’ lead and make it 5–0. The Germans would get one back on the power play, but that is as close as they would come as the Americans took this one handily by a 5–1 score.
Coronato was visibly impactful all the way across the ice, and every time he was on the ice, he was noticeable. However, it was interesting to see he was on the lower end of ice time among American skaters, finishing with just over 14 minutes on the ice. Only seven players finished below him, most of whom were the bottom line.
Despite this, Coronato led the US in shots on net with seven, and was very unlucky to not score that goal in the second period. He had numerous other opportunities to put the puck in the net, and was stymied all night long by the German goaltender. It would not have been a surprise if he ended the game with multiple goals given how high quality his chances were.
What was even more impressive was his skating, and the way he was able to just skate through German players. The best example was on the goal above, where he skated through two defenders without losing the puck or slowing down then made a heads up play to find Cooley right in front of the net was exceptional. His playmaking skills were on display all night long, and both of his linemates, Cooley and Matthew Knies, had numerous chances right in front that were stopped by the German goalie.
It is the first game of the tournament and the US is still trying to figure out their optimal units for power play and penalty kill, but it was a surprise not to see Coronato play a major role on either. While he did get the assist on the power play in the first, it was in the back half of the five minute infraction, and the US gave most of their guys a look on this infraction. He was not on the ice for much of either of the other two power plays.
Now, there is a chance they expected to play Coronato on the penalty kill, but they had all of 20 seconds of kill time as Germany would score very early on during their one chance. However, if that was where they wanted to use him, it would have made more sense to put him on the first unit to start the kill. Having played top penalty kill at Harvard and against a weaker German team, using Coronato may have allowed them to create shorthanded chances with a defensively responsible forward.
On that, it was excellent to see how responsible Coronato was in his own end. He was very good at being in the right place at the right time, limiting opponents from setting up and doing the little things to breakup plays. He was also regularly the last man back helping to support the breakout as opposed to being down in the neutral zone expecting a long pass.
A strong first impression
Coronato played a very complete game, but it will be interesting to watch his ice time and usage going forward. Does he earn more powerplay time? Does USA try him more readily on the penalty kill? How does this change against a tougher opponent? Only time will tell.
The USA faces Switzerland on Thursday August 11 then Austria on August 13, followed by a big test against Sweden on August 14. This will be the game to watch to see how Coronato does against the toughest opponent in the group.