T. PETERSBURG, Russia — Auston Matthews scored his first two goals for the United States in a rough-and-tumble 6-3 win over Belarus at the world ice hockey championship on Saturday.
Coming off a 5-1 loss to Canada in the opening game on Friday, the U.S. showcased its young talent, leading 5-1 at one point.
In addition to the two goals from the 18-year-old Matthews, who is widely predicted to be the No. 1 NHL draft pick, three more U.S. goals were scored by players aged 20 or younger.
“We were just hungrier tonight,” Matthews said. “We took a little too many penalties but in the end we came out strong. That loss didn’t really sit too well in the locker room last night, so we were pretty motivated to come out here and make it a good one.”
Discipline issues often dictated the flow of the game for both teams, with the U.S. registering nine minor penalties and Belarusian defenceman Ilya Shinkevich ejected for a headbutt on Jordan Schroeder.
“I’m proud of the way our guys played today, but not that we were undisciplined,” Belarus coach Dave Lewis said, and blasted Shinkevich for giving up a “stupid penalty.”
The U.S. led 33-23 on shots, though it was fairly even after an 11-3 lead in the first. Belarus beat the U.S. 5-2 at last year’s worlds.
“We knew this was going to be a difficult test, a well-coached team, a team that beat Team USA last year, so it was a good response in 24 hours from us,” U.S. coach John Hynes said.
In the Moscow group of the preliminary round, the Czech Republic rolled to a second win in two days, beating Latvia 4-3 in a shootout. The Czechs previously beat host Russia 3-0 on Friday.
Also, Switzerland surprisingly lost to Kazakhstan 3-2 in a shootout. Despite a 51-27 shots advantage, the Swiss struggled to beat Kazakh goaltender Vitaly Kolesnik. Canada-born wing Nigel Dawes secured the win for Kazakhstan in the shootout.
Denmark began by pasting Norway 3-0 on two Nicklas Jensen goals, while Danish goalkeeper Sebastian Dahm made 44 saves for the shutout.
France began with a win in the St. Petersburg group, beating Germany 3-2 in a shootout in which 40-year-old goaltender Cristobal Huet saved all three German shots.
Earlier, Slovakia won against Hungary 4-1. The Hungarian team is at the worlds for only the second time since 1939, and plays Canada on Sunday.
Hungary coach Rich Chernomaz, a former world championship bronze medallist as a player with Canada, wants his team to cut out mistakes. “If you don’t bring or translate the trust and belief in what you have to work with, then you’re dead before you get started,” he said.
Canada centre Mark Scheifele said he followed part of Hungary’s game before practice on Saturday.
“They look like they work hard, they’re going to be honest, and you can’t take any team lightly in this tournament,” Scheifele said.