Craig Smith’s hat-trick and stellar goaltending by teenage rookie John Gibson led the US over host Finland 4-1 in the ice hockey world championship on Wednesday.
The US moved above Finland in their group, second to Russia.
Also, Switzerland won their fourth straight, game beating Slovenia 7-1, Sweden stuffed Norway 5-1 and Germany posted their first win, 2-0 at Austria’s expense.
Gibson was a bold choice by the US that paid off. Although the 19-year-old has played mainly junior league in Canada, he is a three-time world age-group champion, at under-17, under-18 and this year’s juniors in Russia, where he was named the most valuable player and best goalie.
He finished with 31 saves on Wednesday.
“I was a bit nervous as we played Finland in front of their home crowd,” Gibson said. “Or, I was maybe a bit more excited than nervous. They had a couple of good chances in the early stages, but from then on we shook off the fatigue from yesterday and we began to play our own game.”
Smith’s first goal evened the score toward the end of the first period. He received a pinpoint pass to the far post by David Moss, a colleague on the first line led by Paul Stastny. Moss and Stastny had two assists.
The US were pinned in their own end for most of the period, and it looked as if they were still affected by their strength-sapping loss the night before to reigning champions Russia. However, in the second period, the US continued to get their legs back, and show more aggression.
Smith used smart screening by Moss to make it 2-1 at 3 minutes, 22 seconds into the third period, and Stephen Gionta added the third at 11:29 gathering the puck in the neutral zone as Juhamatti Aaltonen, the lively Finnish forward, turned over the puck. Beforehand, Gibson made a save on a breakaway by Sakari Salminen.
Smith hit his third receiving a pass from Stastny in the last minute for an empty net goal.
The Swiss made their point with three goals in each of the two first periods against Slovenia.
Denis Hollenstein had two goals and two assists, and Simon Bodenmann and Luca Cunti each a goal and two assists. Andres Ambuhl and Reto Suri each scored and assisted once.
Also in Stockholm, Sweden started well in the third period, scoring three goals against Norway and outshooting their neighbors 48-21.
Gabriel Landeskog scored twice for Sweden, who were to play Canada yesterday. Louie Eriksson, Andreas Jamtin and Elias Falth also scored.
Both of Germany’s goals against Austria were by forward Markus Kink. Rob Zepp earned the shutout with 27 saves.