2024 IIHF World Junior Championship

USA Hockey Beat Slovakia 10-2 at The World Juniors. Here's What We Learned

USA Hockey Beat Slovakia 10-2 at The World Juniors. Here's What We Learned

Rutger McGroarty notched a hat trick as Team USA beat Slovakia to claim first place in Group B at the 2024 WJC.

Dec 31, 2023 by Chris Peters

GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- The U.S. National Junior Team clinched first place in Group B at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship thanks to a 10-2 win over Slovakia. USA captain Rutger McGroarty (WPG) scored his first three goals of the tournament in a hat trick to pace the American scoring attack.

Despite the lopsided scoreline, the first half of the game was tightly contested. McGroarty got the scoring started early with a nice wraparound goal in the first period, but Slovakia was able to answer back. Then Zeev Buium (2024) put on a stickhandling exhibition as he dangled through traffic and fit a shot past Samuel Urban to make it 2-1 ahead of the intermission.

Penalty trouble nearly cost the U.S. as Gavin Hayes (CHI) was whistled for a major kneeing penalty, which was upheld on review. Hayes also got a game misconduct. 

At the start of the second period, however, USA forward Gavin Brindley (CBJ) scored a shorthanded goal on a breathtaking rush and shot that made it 3-1 and put the U.S. in control. 

However, Filip Mesar (MTL) was able to score on a later power play to make it 3-2.

The U.S. had a near immediate reply, however, as Ryan Leonard (WSH) and McGroarty scored just 34 seconds apart to allow the U.S. to head into the third period with a commanding 5-2 lead.

The lopsided scoreline obscured how well goalie Trey Augustine (DET) played in the second period as he stopped 19 of 20 shots in the middle frame, including some on Grade A opportunities. 

In the third period, USA continued to blow the barn doors off their opponent as they connected for five more goals including McGroarty's hat trick tally, along with markers from Cutter Gauthier (PHI), another from Brindley and two from Isaac Howard (TBL). 

USA earned a 10-2 win and clinched the top seed in their group heading into the medal round. Team USA collected 11 of a possible 12 points in the standings. They'll await final seeding in Group A, but most likely will play against Latvia in the quarterfinal.

Here's a look at some of the key takeaways from USA's game...

What We Learned From USA's 10-2 Win Over Slovakia

Rutger McGroarty Has Arrived

When Rutger McGroarty was injured in a game against Penn State in mid-November, his World Junior dreams were in jeopardy. He said that he never knew pain until he was laying on the ice at Yost. He put the work in to come back, even meeting regularly with a sports psychologist to get himself back on track.

After a sluggish start to his World Juniors, McGroarty had his big breakout performance. He scored three goals in the game, showing the finish that he had lacked in previous games and put his team on the right foot with the game's opening goal. Seeing the way he celebrated, you could tell there was a big weight off his shoulders.

"Oh, I'm back," McGroarty declared after the game. He feels like he's all the way back from that injury and that he is ready to hit his stride now. 

What made the game more impressive is that USA's top line was without Jimmy Snuggerud (STL), who was sidelined with an illness that had felled other teammates earlier in the tournament. Oliver Moore (CHI) played in his spot and USA's top line didn't miss a beat. 

Trey Augustine Was At His Best

It really should not be lost in the 10-2 scoreline how good Trey Augustine (DET) was in this game. The Michigan State netminder was as dialed in as we've seen him at the World Juniors, turning aside 38 of 40 shots including some key looks in the second period when the game was still in doubt.

Augustine said he had to get over a 24-hour stomach bug which has been going through the team of late. He missed the last game, but didn't show any signs of rust or lethargy in his performance against Slovakia. Augustine had to battle through traffic and sustain some tense plays at the net front, but he never looked rattled by it.

This game had more intensity than his previous start, but he was more than equal to the challenge.

Widespread Contributions

USA got points from every line, even Gavin Hayes (CHI) had an assist before he got the boot in the first period. Having all four lines contributing to the offense is something that hasn't always been readily apparent in this particular tournament. To have the top line going is big, but USA needed more from their depth and they got it.

Sixteen different players registered a point in the game with eight USA players having multi-point efforts. 

This was the kind of performance this U.S. team needed to build confidence going into the next phase of the tournament. There are still some things to clean up and some players who haven't met their normal standard yet, but this was a complete game played by the U.S. with a big result.

Stray Observations/Notes From USA vs. Slovakia 

  • Gavin Hayes (CHI) may be at risk of receiving supplemental discipline as a result of his major and game misconduct for kneeing Slovak defenseman Milan Pisoja. The call was upheld after video review despite protests from Team USA. Pisoja was attended to by the medical staff, but did ultimately return to the game. That helps Hayes's cause as well. The IIHF will likely issue a decision by tomorrow if there will be any additional penalty to Hayes.
  • Oliver Moore (CHI) had an assist and four shots on goal while playing his most minutes in the tournament on USA's top line in place of Jimmy Snuggerud. 
  • Zeev Buium (2024) has had his ups and downs at this tournament, but the game against Slovakia was a great one for him. He had the second most minutes among USA defensemen, scored a goal and had an assist, and also ended up on USA's second power-play unit.

Key Stats From USA vs. Slovakia 

  • USA's power play went 1-for-3 and the PK was 2-for-3 with a shorthanded goal.
  • Team USA won 59% of their faceoffs with Cutter Gauthier (PHI) leading the way with a 76.5% success rate on draws.
  • Lane Hutson (MTL) led all players in ice time with 23:41.
  • Cutter Gauthier (PHI) had a game-high nine shots on goal.
  • Team USA scored 29 goals during the preliminary round.
  • Gavin Brindley (CBJ) leads all players in the tournament with six goals. He is second in WJC play in points with eight.

World Juniors Stream In 2023- 2024

The World Juniors Championships will air the NHL Network in the U.S.. Some games will be available on ESPN+.

World Juniors Hockey On TSN In Canada

In Canada, the event will be televised on TSN and streamed on TSN+.

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