January 1, 1999

WINNIPEG, Manbitoba – The U.S. National Junior Team won its first game at the 1999 World Junior Championship with a 5-2 victory over Canada Thursday night before a soldout crowd of 13,225 at the Winnipeg Arena.

Notre Dame sophomore left wing Dan Carlson, one of 12 forwards and 15 collegians on the USA roster, did not factor into the team scoring.

The victory was gratifying for the U.S., which despite failing to qualify for medal play, still overcame a talented Canadian team and boisterous home crowd with a gritty performance. The U.S. Team was sparked by a critical stretch of 4:10 midway through the second period during which time it scored three goals and broke out to a 4-1 lead.

Goaltender Joe Blackburn (Livonia, Mich./Michigan State) in his first start of the tournament was brilliant with 36 saves including 18 in the second period. Center Scott Gomez, (Anchorage, Alaska/Tri-City Americans) and right winger Brian Gionta (Rochester, NY/Boston College) -a pair of New Jersey Devils draft selections – each sparked the offense. Gomez had one one goal and three assists, including assists on all three second-period goals. Gionta scored the U.S. Team’s first and third goals and made a sensational pass on the American’s second goal.

The U.S. was outshot 38-33, but scored one goal in the first and third periods and three in the second period.

Gionta opened the scoring at 14:46 in the first period and quieted the crowd in the process. He gained possesion of the puck in the crease and slid in his second attempt on Roberto Luongo. The Canadians tied the game at 3:42 of the second period as Adam Mair stole a U.S. clearing attempt at the right boards, swooped to the net and lifted a backhand flip shot past a screened Blackburn.

Then, the crucial stretch of the game. Seconds after Gionta exited the penalty box, he grabbed the puck at center ice, managing his way down the left wing, drew two Canadians toward him and threaded a perfect pass to a streaking Ryan Murphy (Encino, Calif./Bowling Green) who skated in and blasted a hard shot past Luongo’s blocker slide and inside the left post at 6:23. At 8:03, Barrett Heistan (Anchorage, Alaska/Maine) battled in front, accepted a centering pass from Gomez and slapped a rebound past Luongo for a power-play goal. At 10:13 Gionta rushed to the net and banged in a skidding puck in the crease. The Canadians drew to within 4-2 on a power-play goal at 17:21 as Daniel Tkaczuk finished off 1:18 of consceutive Canadien extra-man pressure in the U.S. zone with a shot from the slot.

The U.S. took most of the hope out of the Canadian team and crowd with a goal from Gomez at 1:15 of the third period. The goal came 19 seconds into a U.S. power-play opportunity, as Gomez led a self-rush into the Canadian’s end and down the left wing and fired a perfect shot past a crouched Luongo inside the top of the right post. Blackburn turned all seven Canadian shots away in the third period.

Pool A         GP  W  L  T  GF  GA PTS*Slovakia       4  3  0  1  10   7   7*Canada         4  2  1  1  10   9   5*Finland        4  2  2  0  17  16   5Czech Republic  4  1  3  0  15  12   2United States   4  1  3  0  13  17   2
* Medal Round Qualifiers