U.S. takes battle of red, white, bleu
by Andrew PODNIEKS|16 MAY 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Matt Zambonin
The United States got past the French tonight in Ostrava, winning 5-0 and improving their record to 2-2 in the process. The three points moves the Americans into a tie with Latvia for third place in Group B, while France, now 1-3, stays in 6th spot with four points.

The victors got all but one of their goals in the first period, after which backup Quentin Papillon entered the game and was sensational for France over the final 40 minutes. Shots favoured the victors by a whopping 54-10 margin and was fully indicative of the imbalance in play.

Matt Boldy had two goals and an assist for the U.S. while Brock Nelson had a goal and two helpers. The U.S. played a penalty-free game and the French incurred the only four minors of the night.

"We played an amazing game, and so did their goalie," offered U.S. forward Trevor Zegras. "We had 54 shots and only scored five, which is a stunner, but credit to him. He was unbelievable. We loved our start. We came out and punched them in the mouth, so to speak, scored a couple, and that's what we need to do. Coming into the game we were tied with points with them, so we went at it like we didn't think we were better than them."

"We didn't have the start we wanted, and we were chasing the game early on," said Frenchman Kevin Bozon. "After the first, the game was sort of over but we wanted to play a tie the rest of the way. Away from the puck we got better, and that's something we can build off. But we never had the puck much tonight. Really, any nation's weakness is play away from the puck and that's something we've worked on a lot over the last four or five years. We got away from that in the first against some of the best players in the world but got better as the game went on." 

Indeed, the U.S. started with four unanswered goals in the opening period and never looked back. They scored 45 seconds after puck drop off a Nelson shot from the slot that beat Julian Junca between the pads. 

Less than three minutes later, it was 2-0. Boldy got his first of the night after the French failed to clear the puck out of their zone. Boldy's shot from point-blank range found the net at 3:24. He made it 3-0 midway through the period off another close-in chance, and then Johnny Gaudreau got his second of the tournament on another chance from the middle of the ice.

Coach Philippe Bozon elected to sit Junca to start the second and give Papillon some playing time, his first minutes of the tournament. Wouldn’t you know, he stole the show in the second. Shots favoured the relentless Americans 23-3, but Papillon was perfect, making several excellent saves along the way, especially during the only two power plays of the period, both to the U.S. 

France had its best scoring chance late in the third when Kevin Bozon stripped Jake Sanderson of the puck in front of the U.S. goal, but Alex Nedeljkovic was there to make the save. Moments later, the U.S. scored on a France turnover in its slot, Pinto snapping a shot past a surprised Papillon.

The Americans are back at it tomorrow night against Poland while France has a day off before facing Slovakia on Saturday.