Team USA struggles in final qualifying game, loses to Switzerland 5-3

Team USA’s efforts to improve their position for the elimination round of the 2011 IIHF World Championships fell by the wayside today as an energized and intense Team Switzerland came out and stifled the Americans on their way to a 5-3 win in the final game of the qualifying round.

Team USA got some reinforcements today in the form of Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk and he made his presence felt in the game scoring a goal in the third period, but his efforts alone weren’t enough to lead the Americans to victory. University of Wisconsin product and Nashville Predators prospect scored as did Senators forward Ryan Shannon to provide the offense for Team USA, but their issues were in goal today.

Ty Conklin got the start but made just 12 saves in 31 minutes played as he allowed four goals. Al Montoya replaced him and closed the door stopping all 12 shots he saw as it would be just an empty net goal that would provide the rest of the Swiss offense. Switzerland was led by Kevin Lotscher who scored twice, his second of the game providing the difference maker and giving them a 4-2 lead at the time.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

Team USA is now set for the elimination round of the tournament and they’ll have a date with Jaromir Jagr’s Czech Republic team. With host Slovakia out of the tournament, expect that the crowd will be very much pro-Czech as visitors from the neighboring country will pack out the arena.

The Czech Republic locked up the top spot in their group while Team USA finishes fourth in theirs. Getting the chance to face off against Jagr’s team with Ondrej Pavelec in net will provide this very young American team quite the challenge if they want to earn a medal in this year’s tournament. Pavelec has been lights out all tournament going 5-0 with a 1.40 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. The Czechs are teeming over with talent, however, as they’re rolling with Patrik Elias, Martin Havlat, and Tomas Plekanec. The deck is certainly stacked up against Team USA but this tournament is always ripe for surprises.

Here are the highlights from today’s game.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

DiMaio named Blues’ director of player personnel

via St. Louis Blues
Leave a comment

The St. Louis Blues named Rob DiMaio their director of player personnel on Tuesday.

He’s been with the organization for some time. He joined as a pro scout in 2008 and was the pro scouting director starting in August 2012.

He was also a scout for the Dallas Stars before landing with the Blues (one would assume his biggest connection is GM Doug Armstrong, then).

In case his nose didn’t give it away, he also enjoyed a lengthy hockey career over 19 seasons.

No doubt about it, this is a pivotal season for the Blues after multiple campaigns in which strong regular seasons dissolved into playoff disappointments. Perhaps DiMaio can make a difference in a heightened role?

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock

ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”