As they say, practice makes perfect. The early afternoon hours of December 28 saw both the USA and Finnish squads take to the ice in preparation for tonight’s 20:00 match-up between the two teams at the Pacific Coliseum, which will be shown on TSN HD.
After coming off an 11-2 drubbing versus Norway two days earlier, Team USA Head Coach Walt Kyle led his squad through a brisk 50-minute practice including special teams, breakout patterns, and goaltender drills.
Though it’s expected that USA superstars like Phil Kessel and Robbie Schremp would have no problem burying pucks, the thing that stood out here was the relative ease with which virtually ever player on the American roster could pick the corners.
In rapid succession their shots went exactly where they wanted them to on the two American netminders – precision shots were placed with ease in the top corners, low or through the five-hole.
Despite the barrage of shots, however, both American netminders, Cory Schneider and Jeff Frazee, looked solid in today’s skate.
Towards the conclusion of the practice, the USA squad broke into separate groups and began working on special teams.
Both American power play units looked dynamic, and the USA’s penalty killers looked as though they will frustrate opposing power play units.
The Americans displayed a tight, yet mobile four-man box, while setting up their penalty killers in a manner that will stifle opposing teams down low if they lack the necessary speed to move the puck against a team of the USA’s caliber.
While the USA squad looked very business-like during its skate, the Finns took a more casual approach in their 40-minute workout.
After taking in the USA’s practice, Head Coach Hannu Aravirta’s squad took to the ice shortly after noon, and began with a series of puck possession and breakout drills.
The exercises were up-tempo, yet many of the Finnish defenders’ first passes out of their zone failed to reach the sticks of attacking forwards.
You shouldn’t read too much into a morning skate, but the Finns looked as though they will need to elevate their game substantially after suffering a 5-1 loss to Canada December 26.
Team Finland also did a series of 2-on-2 drills, where forwards breaking out of the defensive end moved up ice against their defensive counterparts.
Toronto Maple Leaf first-round draft-pick Tuuka Rask had an up and down practice, making some saves he would be expected to make in a game situation, while allowing some soft goals as well.