Finland vs. Russia/USA vs. Czech Republic Recaps


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Finland vs. Russia

 

By Frank McNichol

Staff Writer

 

Everyone knew what was at stake going into this contest; a win for Russia would spell the end of the road for the young guns from North America. An entire continent’s hopes rested solely with Finland, and today those hopes were crushed as Russia cruised to the 3-0 victory.
The first period got off to a lollygagging start. Neither team could assert themselves as the aggressor in the feeling-out process. To give you an idea of the pace of play, Finland recorded their first shot on net 8:44 into the period. The shots on goal battle in the period was won by Russia who outshot Finland 6 to 3. Finland failed to capitalize on both powerplay opportunities they had, while Russia couldn’t convert on the 16 second man advantage they had to end the period. Overall, things were looking good for Finland. The Russians were expected to come out firing and desperate to somewhat redeem themselves for recent early dismissals from international play, but instead came out flat and uninspired. The Finns came out with an objective in mind to neutralize Ovechkin and the Russian offense, which they accomplished with ease.
Where the Finns succeeded in the first, they failed in the second. Russia started off the period with 1:44 of powerplay time. The Finns killed it off with relative ease, and looked to start pushing their offensive pace. Exactly one minute of play later, Mikael Granlund was fed a beautiful pass in the slot by Jori Lehtera and rang a beauty right off the post. The Finns would immediately reap the consequences of missed opportunities when Alex Ovechkin stepped up to the plate with a beautiful cross crease pass to Vladimir Tarasenko for a tap in goal. Finland net minder Tuukka Rask stood no chance on the play, he had to respect Ovechkin’s shot while the Finnish defense failed to find Tarasenko who slipped in right behind them.
Not even two minutes later, a lesser known Russian duo connected for a goal. After some established zone time, Russian center Vadim Shipachyov slipped a pass behind Leo Komarov to winger Ivan Telegin just in front of the right hand side of the red crease line who had a clear horizontal lane to the net and out waited a sprawling Rask for an easy top shelf tally. In the previous period, Telegin valiantly blocked a Patrick Laine slapshot on the penalty kill, further proof that goals heel all wounds.
While Finland would go on to out shoot Russia in the period 6-5, it was the Russians who clearly dominated play.
Going into the third period, the Finns were tasked with having to score at least two goals to tie the game, and seeing as they have only scored one goal in the first two games, they knew it was too tall of a task. Any attack they tried to muster either rang off the pipe or was stopped by Sergei Bobrovsky, who probably didn’t break a sweat the entire game.
3:30 into the third period during a 4 on 4 situation, Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who had a very impressive tournament thus far, was fighting for a loose puck in the offensive zone when he was blindsided by the linesman. The massive hit took Ristolainen out of the play, leaving the puck to Alexei Emelin who fed the puck to Evgeni Malkin on a 2-on-1 rush up the ice with lots of space. Malkin, who was held scoreless the first two games of the tournament, came up smooth with the easy wrister past Tuukka Rask making it a 3-0 lead for Team Russia. Given Team Finland’s bone-dry offensive output, the game may as well have ended there.
The Finns would not be able to muster up any significant offense in the remaining 16:21 of play, and Russia was able to silence their critics and live to fight another day. The shot total for the game was 22-21 in favor of the Russians, which is a good indicator of the slow paced tilt.
For Team Finland, who went winless in three games in the tournament, nothing seeme

d to go their way. Expectations were high for the team despite being placed in the tougher of the two groups, largely because of their exciting young talent. The trio of Aleksander Barkov, Sebastian Aho, and last year’s #2 overall pick Patrick Laine were expected to spark the Finnish offense, but none of them even recorded a point in the three games. Despite the putrid performance, and loss to their arch rival Sweden, the future still looks bright for Finland hockey.
As for Team Russia, they will go on to face Team Canada, a team of horrors for them, this coming Saturday at 8 PM Eastern. Russia’s victory today and second place finish in Group B behind Sweden was enough to quiet the critics for now, but another loss to Team Canada will put them right back on the media skillet. If Team Russia will have any hope of beating Canada, they will need the Tarasenko-Ovechkin connection to remain hot while veterans Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk step up their disappointing play. This team has the offensive firepower and stability in net to compete, but an unproven defensive corps could do them in.

 

USA vs. Czech Republic

 

By Sean Ambrosia

Staff Writer

 

Team USA spent most of the 48 hours leading up tonight’s puck drop against the Czech Republic on defense. The team’s top brass has taken fire for a roster selection which valued grit over skill in an attempt to match up against Canada, but which left talent like Phil Kessel watching the tournament at home. Coach John Tortorella has taken flack for some of his bizarre decisions with the team’s lineup, which included scratching Dustin Byfuglien against Team Europe, and pairing Patrick Kane on a line with Justin Abdelkader. Even former USA Hockey players, including members of the ’96 World Cup wining team, took to social media to offer criticism of the team’s performance. This deluge of criticism upped the pressure on the Americans leading into what was an otherwise meaningless game against the Czechs, with both teams having been eliminated earlier in the week. 
 
Though not enough to send them through to semi-final, a convincing win in their final game would have gone a long ways toward vindicating Team USA’s World Cup performance. But a lackluster game against the Czechs, probably the weakest team in tournament, would only compound the criticism of the front office, the coaching staff, and ultimately the players. With these steaks weighing on their minds, Team USA took the Air Canada Centre ice Thursday evening for the final time this World Cup against a Czech team that had been outscored 9-2 in its first two group stage games.
 
While the US came out of the gate with more energy and intensity than they had shown against Canada it was the Czech Republic who grabbed the opening goal of the game at 12:44 of the first period. With a delayed penalty called against the US, Czech Defenseman Zbynek Michalek scored on Ben Bishop. The US responded shortly, tying the game with 5:32 remaining in the first on a Joe Pavelski goal with assists from Patrick Kane and Zach Parise, and the teams headed into the intermission deadlocked at one. In the second period momentum swung in favor of the Czechs, who put up 3 goals in the period. The good night for the Michalek family continued, with Zybnek’s brother Michalek recording two goals in the period, the first at 6:03 of the period, and the second at 17:29. On the American side, forward Justin Abdelkader, whose inclusion on the roster over more highly skilled options was a source of some controversy, scored the team’s second goal midway through the period. The third period belonged to the Americans, who controlled the momentum from the opening faceoff, and managed to close the deficit to one goal on a Ryan McDonagh short handed effort early in the period. Team USA continued to create the majority of the offensive opportunities throughout the remainder of the period, but it was too little too late, as the Czech defense managed to withstand the US offensive attack- including a late period US power play, and handed Team USA their third loss in as many games at this World Cup. 
 
Tonight’s loss leaves Team USA at 0-3 for the tournament, their worst showing in a major international tournament featuring NHL players. With the uncertainty surrounding the negotiation to send NHLers to the 2018 Olympics, it also raises questions about the future of a USA Hockey program which may have to wait four years for their senior men’s team to get a chance to redeem their poor performance. That being said, there is a significant bright spot for the future of the USA Hockey program to be found in the World Cup performance of the young American talent on Team North America. Budding American stars such as Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, and Auston Matthews seem primed to lead the core of a Team USA that could legitimately compete for gold in coming years. For now though, Team USA is left to lick their wounds and assess what went wrong, and NHL fans can at least be consoled by the lack of major injuries to the team’s star players.

Not Enough Talent to Win on Grit Alone – Team USA Eliminated


By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

 

I took some time out before writing this piece to really figure out how I wanted to express my opinions on the loss. Not wanting to let emotions and rash decisions fuel the words, but really to reflect on what the product on the ice reflected for Team USA. This roster was constructed to beat one team: Team Canada. The gritty additions to lineup such as Justin Abdelkader and Brandon Dubinsky were to pester, annoy, and mentally disrupt guys like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, and Jonathan Toews. The problem with this mentality? They’re already used to that. Playing guys like Dubinsky and Abdelkader all year long helps the elite players that they are to cross that bridge and paly their game at this international stage. In order to beat Team Canada, you have to beat them at their own game.

 

The United States ultimately put themselves behind the eight ball early in their tournament preparation by hiring head coach, John Tortorella. Through if the style of play was to annoy and antagonize the opposition the entire tournament, they certainly got their man. What lessons have we learned from the 2015-16 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the high-flying and speed demon, Pittsburgh Penguins took on the San Jose Sharks? Speed kills. Skill dominates. You can’t hit what you can’t catch.

 

The United States got the early goal on a gritty rebound from defenseman, Ryan McDonagh as he luckily crashed the net and was at the right place at the right time. The team got what they wanted early on, took the home crowd out of it, and were on the right course to victory. However, after a couple of defensive lapses and skill, Matt Duchene and Corey Perry helped Team Canada to go back up on top 2-1. Team Canada ultimately defeated The United States roster not only on the scoreboard 4-2, but in every aspect of the 60 minute game. While the team was busy preparing to defend against the top rated players on Canada’s roster, their “depth” players were the ones that stole the show.

 

Can’t help but wonder what the United States would have been capable of doing had they modeled their best player available roster and competed skill against skill. When a goal is needed against Team Europe or Canada to bring life back to the bench, where was Phil Kessel? Tweeting about the United States Team:

 

“Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”

 

Talent was left off of the United States roster that could very well have been a deciding factor in this tournament. When the top players on your roster fail to convert throughout the game, its your depth that pulls you up. Highly skilled hockey players were left off the roster to make room for grit and tenacity. Players such as: Phil Kessel (PIT), Tyler Johnson (TBL), Paul Stastny (STL), Kyle Okposo (BUF) were all left off of this roster to fill the philosophy that was “grind it out” hockey.

 

Even leaving the forwards out of the picture. Going with the heavy and two-way style up front could potentially have worked if there were a bigger offensive power on the backend. I still stand by my opinions on Dustin Byfuglien and his offensive talents. He had a bad tournament and was not deployed properly. However, players such as Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson could have been replaced with that of Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Justin Falk (CAR), and Keith Yandle (FLA). All three of these players have proven themselves to be not only high-powered offensive talent, but highly talented defensemen alone. Team USA could have counted themselves blessed to have any one of these three in their lineup to help quarterback their Power Play or help control the neutral and defensive zones.

 

At the end of the day, however, the lineup is what the lineup is. And players, coaches, and fans must sit back and watch what the teams of executives come together to put out on the ice. Said coach John Tortorella about his team:

 

“You guys can beat up the roster all you want. You look at some of those players on our roster, there are some pretty good skilled players and we just simply did not do enough offensively and we self-inflicted quite a bit in two games.”

 

Offense was needed to beat Team Canada and Europe you say? Offense was needed to win a game? You don’t beat speed and skill with grit. Maybe it was the late Herb Brooks who said and did it best, as I attempt to get this quote as close as possible: “You don’t win by protecting, you attack. You beat them at their own game” when discussing about the powerhouse Soviet Union in the 1980s. To show success again internationally, the United States need show what kind of talent has grown in its own backyard. 

 

Back to the drawing board, boys

Team Russia vs. Team Sweden Recap


Final:

Team Sweden: 2

Team Russia: 1

 

Group B Standings:

Sweden: 1-0-0

North America: 0-0-0

Finland: 0-0-0

Russia: 0-1-0

 

 

By Frank McNichol

Staff Writer

 

No Lundqvist? No problem for Team Sweden. Led by Victor Hedman and surprise starter Jacob Markstrom, Sweden kicked off Group B action by smothering the Russian attack in a 2-1 victory. Despite it being a one goal differential, Sweden was by far the superior team from the get-go.

 

The first period was rather uneventful, with Sweden out shooting Russia 10-8 in an evenly paced, and scoreless period. Both teams killed failed to convert on their respective powerplay opportunities in the period. The big question for Sweden to start off the game how would Jacob Markstrom, who filled in for an ill Henrik Lundqvist, deal with his nerves? Markstrom dispelled any of those concerns early, stopping all 8 shots including a one timer from Ovechkin not even a minute into the contest. Not to be out done, Sergei Bobrovsky looked just as composed for team Russia, stopping all 10 shots fired his way.

 

Things would heat up in the second period, especially for Team Sweden. After 10 and a half scoreless minutes, Daniel Sedin took a hooking minor sending Team Sweden to the Powerplay. That powerplay lasted a mere 4 seconds after Nicklas Backstrom cleanly won the faceoff back to Erik Karlsson who sent the puck over to Gabriel Landeskogg who blasted a one-timer from the top of the right hand cricle past a screened Bobrovsky. Just a little over two minutes later, Sweden pushed their lead to 2-0 after Carl Haeglin tapped a back handed pass over to a pinching Victor Hedman in the slot who wristed the puck past a helpless Bobrovsky. Despite outshooting Sweden 11-10 in the period, Russia failed to generate many quality chances against Sweden’s stout defense, and when they did they were all answered by Jacob Markstrom.
One of the biggest challenges Team Sweden faced this game was shutting down Alex Ovechkin, and thanks to Victor Hedman they did just that for the first 2 periods. Ovechkin looked like the hungriest player on the ice all game, laying hit after hit but failed to generate anything of substance, and it was all thanks to Hedman’s lockdown defensive play.
In the third period, Russia was faced with overcoming a 2-0 deficit against the Swedes. They came out looking for offense, but Sweden would continue to shut them down at every turn. Any rush up the ice by the Russians was immediately shut down by the Swedes in the neutral zone, causing Russia to ice the puck many times. The Russians were getting completely frustrated, as displayed by Ovechkin needlessly slashing Mikael Backlund giving the Swedes a power play with just over 14 minutes to play in the period. Russia held tight and killed the minor penalty off, but any chance at gaining momentum was quickly stifled by the Sweden defense.
Things were looking hopeless for Russia who failed to solve Jacob Markstrom 19 minutes into the period. But just as the game looked to be slipping away from Team Russia, Captain Ovechkin redeemed himself for the earlier penalty and flung a hail mary wrist shot from the top of the left hand circle past Markstrom to cut the lead to 2-1, giving Russia some life. With the new found energy, Team Russia pressed further into the offensive zone, and while they failed to score on the ensuing possession they forced Team Sweden to take an icing, giving Russia one last gasp to tie the game. With ten seconds remaining, Datsyuk won the offensive zone faceoff back to Vladimir Tarasenko who slapped it on goal, off of Markstrom’s chest, into Oveckin’s glove and into the net. For moment, Russia had done the unthinkable and miraculously tied up the game.

 

But the referees quickly squashed their hopes by waving it off, saying Ovechkin knocked the puck in with his glove. Ovechkin was insistent that the puck had touched his stick after corralled by his glove, but the video evidence did not back up those claims and the call stood, no goal. With 8 seconds remaining, the face off was moved to center ice where Backstrom would win the face off, but there was no play to be made, the time ran out and Sweden held on to win.

 

Leading the way for Team Sweden was Victor Hedman who scored the game winning goal and logged 22:54 of ice time, more than any skater on either team. While scoring the goal was huge, the fact that he kept Ovechkin in check all game played a huge part in Team Sweden getting the victory. Jacob Markstrom looked incredibly composed in net stopping 27 of the 28 shots fired his way. Outside of those two it was difficult to single out any other players for Sweden who had great individual performances, but that is what makes Sweden successful; they excel as a team, not as individuals.

For Russia, Alex Ovechkin looked like the alpha out on the ice which sometimes led to sloppy play, but also led to their only goal of the game. While he let his head get the better of him at times throughout the game, he was just about the only Russian skater who looked hungry on the ice. St. Louis Blues winger and NHL 17 cover man, Vladimir Tarasenko tied for the lead in shots for Russia with 4 and looked Dangerous for Russia all game. In the second period, he displayed a great individual effort blowing past the Sweden defense and got a quick wrister in alone on Markstrom, but Markstrom was up to the task snuffing out the opportunity. Despite being the losing goalie, Bobrovsky did just about all he could in the game stopping 27 of 29 shots. It would be very hard to blame him for either of the goals scored on him.
If Russia is going to make any noise moving forward this tournament, they are going to need more from veteran forward Pavel Datsyuk. Despite assisting on the only goal of the game, the Magic Man failed to make a significant impact on the game often going unnoticed. However, the biggest area of concern for Russia has to be their defense. Team Sweden was able to walk all over them in the offensive zone all game, leading to a barrage of scoring opportunities. This was a concern of many going into the tournament, and so far they have done nothing to dispel those concerns.

 

Team Russia will look to bounce back against Team North America on Monday, while Sweden will look to continue rolling against their arch rivals in Finland on Tuesday.

Team USA Falters in Loss to Team Europe


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By Mike Meyer

Staff Writer

The United States not only put themselves in the hole early in the game, but in the tournament also. After a goal against the United States on the first shot from Marian Gaborik, Team Europe never looked back. 

Dustin Byfuglien, arguably the United States number one defenseman, was a late scratch before the game against Team Europe. “We made the decision before the game this was our best lineup,” Tortorella said to the media. The game was certainly missing a lot of intensity from the United States squad and could have used the experience, defensive talent, and certainly offensive talent as well from Dustin Bufuglien. 

Make no mistake, Team Europe was on their game early through the first 60 minutes, and defense in the final 20 while the United States seemed to finally wake up. Efficient in their scoring and opportunities by scoring on 3 of their first 9 shots on net against goaltender Jonathan Quick. Effective on their defense and in net as Slovakian netminder Jarolav Halak stopped all 35 shots on net. However, the United States seemed to have come out flat and never reached second gear throughout the game. The attempted shots from Forward and Defensive players alike were not efficient, creative, and rarely were not dangerous. 

For the United States, they are now forced to play to win the last two games of this set. Tuesday against Team Canada will not come easy and is a MUST win and dig deep moment already in this tournament. Though Coach ‘Torts’ may think that keeping Byfuglien and Palmeri might work best for his plans, what may work best against the rest of the opposition May to just do the obvious and throw your best players out on the ice and stay out of it. 

Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic Recap


Czech-Mate: Canada 6  Czech Republic 0

 

By Greg Johnson

Staff Writer

 

No more waiting around, no more pre-tourney matches, this is the real deal. Today we are officially back into hockey, and what better way to start than on the global stage? After the USA’s loss to team Europe, things stayed hot in Toronto with Team Canada taking on Team Czech Republic.

 

Things went quickly in favor of Team Canada in the first period. While the game started out with explosive energy from both sides, Canada’s talent soon showed its dominance as the Marchand-Crosby-Bergeron line pummeled on the offense. An early Czech challenge of goalie interference proved incorrect as Crosby opened up the scoring with a deflection off of Czech goalkeeper Neuvirth. After that, Crosby’s leadership and skill took the game over with a secondary assist on a Marchand tip-in goal off the face off, and a textbook service pass to Thornton to tap in a goal in the second period. While 3 points in this game were indeed impressive, Crosby showed us just how effective he is no matter what he tries to do. Including being 86% successful in the faceoff circle. Crosby remained physical and in charge through the rest of the game, and Team Czech Republic were left scratching their heads with what to do, even on the power play. The Czechs were 0 for 6 on the man advantage, which speaks a lot about Canada’s defensive prowess, but not a lot about their ability to stay out of the box.

 

Worth mentioning is the return of the man who remained as cool as the ice he stood on, Carey Price. Stopping all 27 shots with a sort of confidence that made it look like he was in warm-ups. Zero mistakes, and his stonewalling of the first period Czech energy gave his team the upper hand in confidence that lasted for the entirety of the game. As hockey fans, we are just glad to see him back and if you’re not a Habs fan, enjoy it while he’s not playing your favorite team.

 

Team Czech Republic will have a lot to ponder on before their next game against Team Europe Monday, most notably their entries, power play, and confidence. Team Canada showed a sort of dominance impossible to contend with, and the Czech team has to shake that off before they continue. Despite the results of this match, they are still a good team. Pastrnak showed some great patience even late in the game, and the defense really started to seem more energized physically as the game went on. As for Canada, while they had a stellar performance, I would like to have seen a lot more from the Tavares-Getzlaf-Stamkos line. An all star grouping came out with a handful of helpers and a chance for Stamkos that got completely robbed by a desperate Neuvirth, but there seemed to be not a lot of stand out efforts beyond that. A small complaint from a stellar performance from the team, but one to note. As the competition goes on, I don’t believe Team Canada will back down. The most exciting matches are still ahead.

Team Europe vs. Team USA Recap


Game Recap: Europe 3, USA 0
Jaroslav Halak of Team Europe
 
By Sean Ambrosia
Staff Writer
The 2016 edition of the World Cup Of Hockey began Saturday afternoon in Toronto with a 3-0 upset victory by Team Europe over Team USA.
 
Team Europe came out more confidently than expected, going up 1-0 at 4:19 of the first period on a goal by Marian Gaborik of Slovakia, giving them a lead they would never relinquish. The Europeans largely controlled the pace of play, limiting offensive opportunities for Team USA.   The US looked flat and stymied on both sides of the puck for most of the game, and allowed 2 more goals in the 2nd period to give Team Europe a 3-0 victory.
 
The lone bright spot for the Americans came with late in the 2nd period when James Van Riemsdyk  appeared to draw the Americans within one, scoring a powerplay goal with 5:50 remaining. However, the goal was overturned on video review, which determined that the puck had been illegally directed on net with Van Riemsdyk glove. Following the overturned call, momentum swung firmly back in Team Europe’s direction, and shortly before time expired in the period Frenchman Pierre-Edoudard Bellemare scored to put his squad up 3-0.
 
Jaroslav Halak was dominant in net for Team Europe, saving all 35 shots attempted at him, although the lackluster offense from Team USA meant that he didn’t face many spectacular scoring opportunities. The New York Islanders’ netminder made 11 of those saves on the penalty kill. Though he only appeared on the scoresheet once (on an assist on the Gaborik goal), Frans Neilsen had a solid game offensively for the Europeans, and was involved on a couple of scoring opportunities. Leon Draisaitl also had a good afternoon, recording the 2nd goal for Team Europe. 
 
On the American side, the effort turned in by the big names on the roster especially left something to be desired. Early in the first, Patrick Kane turned over the puck in the offensive zone, leading to the goal by Gaborik. Jonathan Quick let in 3 goals on only 17 shot faced.
 
Unfortunately for Team USA, the short round-Robin format (each team plays only 3 games) means that even a single loss can be devastating. At the very least losing game one to Europe will make their remaining games, against the Czech Republic and Canada, into must wins. For Team Europe, today’s win proves their ability to compete and win against high level opponents. It also went a long way towards putting to rest any questions about the chemistry of a team comprised of players from 8 different countries who have never before played together internationally. 

Team Canada Preview: Goaltending


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By Sie Nicole

Staff Writer

 

Thank the hockey gods for Carey Price.

 

Price, of the Montreal Canadiens, is slated to start in goal for Team Canada, having last done so at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. There, he held down the crease with a save percentage of .971, winning both a gold medal and the Best Goaltender Award. The concern with Price is that he missed a significant amount of last season recovering from an MCL sprain in his knee. He’s been cleared for play, though, and feels ready to come back. As the 2014-15 winner of the Veniza Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, Hart Trophy, and Lou Marsh Trophy, it goes without saying that he’ll be welcomed back with open arms.

 

But it wouldn’t be Team Canada if they didn’t have a solid backup plan and boy, do they have one.

 

Braden Holtby is coming off a career season with the Washington Capitals. Holtby’s goaltending helped bring Washington a nearly record-setting President’s Trophy (they ended one point shy of tying the club’s highest number of points in a season). He did manage to set Washington’s record for wins in a single season by winning 48 games last year. In total, he holds eight records for goaltending on the Capitals. His save percentage of .922 jumped to .942 during their 2016 playoff run, earning him the Vezina Trophy for outstanding goaltending. Holtby very well could hold his own as Team Canada’s starting goaltender, but he’s made it clear that it’s Price’s job.

 

Should extenuating circumstances occur, Team Canada even has an excellent Plan C.

 

Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Crawford’s regular season numbers are comparable to Holtby’s, with his save percentage at .924 and goals against average at 2.37. In 2015, he shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Carey Price. That same year, he was part of the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks team, making him the only Team Canada goalie with a Stanley Cup under his belt. Not too shabby for a second backup.
Team Canada’s goalies suit up for the first time at 7 pm on Friday September 9th at Nationwide Arena in Columbus in a pre-tournament game against Team USA.