Tha Sports Junkies 101

Halak, Europe Stun USA in World Cup Opener

Tha Sports Junkies 101-Sports News Lisa Gansky/via

Islanders Netminder stops 35 shots in surprising 3-0 win


TORONTO-The 2016 World Cup of Hockey got underway Saturday afternoon with Team USA going up against Team Europe to start the action in Group A. On paper, the U.S. was the clear favorite. Europe goalie Jaroslav Halak showed, though, that what’s on paper doesn’t matter once the teams hit the ice.

Behind 35 saves from Halak, Team Europe pulled out a stunning 3-0 victory over Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey opener.

Considered one of the underdogs in the tournament, Europe got out to a pretty fast start as Marian Gaborik put them up 1-0 just 4:02 into the game after finishing off a 2-on-1 with Frans Nielsen.

Other than the goal, it was an underwhelming first period as the teams combined for just 11 shots on goal in the opening frame.

Things picked up in the second and that’s Europe would take advantage of their opportunities.

After forcing a turnover in the USA end, forward Leon Draisaitl scored on a 2-on-0 4:02 into the second to put the Europeans up 2-0.

With 5:50 left in the middle frame, the U.S. appeared to have gotten on the board with defenseman Ryan Suter‘s point shot deflected off of forward James van Riemsdyk. However, it was ruled that the U.S. forward had deliberately deflected the puck in with his body and the goal was disallowed.

About four and a half minutes later, Europe would pad their lead when forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare tipped in a shot from Jannik Hansen past US starter Jonathan Quick to give the Europeans a 3-0 lead.

In the third period, Halak would slam the door shut on the Americans.

The U.S. pressured to get back in the game, pounding 17 shots on goal in the final frame. The New York Islanders goalie, though, rejected everything thrown his way to preserve Europe’s stunning 3-0 win.

Despite being outshot 35-17 and having 12 giveaways, Team Europe did enough defensively in front of Halak to frustrate Team USA. Europe had 18 blocked shots in the game and held the U.S. scoreless on four power-play opportunities.

They will now face Team Czech Republic on Monday (3:00 PM ET; ESPN2, SN, TVAS) in a game that could put them with one foot in the semifinals.

The U.S., on the other hand, now pretty much faces a must-win on Tuesday night when they go up against Team Canada (8:00 PM ET; ESPN, SN, TVAS) if they want to have a shot of getting out of the group stage.

Three Stars of the Game:

1st Star: Jaroslav Halak, EUR

2nd Star: Marian Gaborik, EUR

3rd Star: Anze Kopitar, EUR