Team USA, Germany

Kraken Daily: Team USA Chokes Again In a Semi-Final

It’s unbelievable! For the 6th time in the last ten IIHF World Championship tournaments, Team USA crapped out in the semi-final match, this time after dominating the preliminary round by going 7-and-0 and handling a decent Czechia team 3-0 in the quarters.

On Saturday, Germany trailed the Americans 3-2, pulled their goalie and tied the game with 1:33 remaining and won a trip to the Gold Medal match with a 3-on-3 overtime goal by Frederik Tiffels at 7:32.

That’s right, Tiffels takes down Uncle Sam! The Cologne native, who developed in the USHL and played three seasons for the Western Michigan University Broncos, is a German national hero.

For Team USA, it’s more of the same.

It’s chronic. In fact it’s acute. It’s the disease that prevents the Americans from making a World Championship gold medal game. The last time it happened, 1950. The last time they won it all in a non-Olympic year, 1933.

To clarify, the USA is listed as world champion in 1960 and 1980 simply because they won the Olympics. There was no separate World Championship tournament those years. In 1992 everyone started playing both tournaments again in Winter Olympic years, and despite the growth of USA Hockey and its prominence at the junior level and in general, it simply can’t get it done with the senior men.

Yes, it’s not the top NHL players, but that’s usually the case with most countries as the tournament annually coincides with the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Then again, even guys that aren’t playing in the postseason often decide not to represent their respective countries, especially the North Americans. This hasn’t stopped the Canadians from winning three of the last seven Worlds.

By the way, Team USA won Olympic Gold since 1980 either.

Team USA Coincidence Or Choke?

Depends if you’re a cynic or if you believe in semi-final Euro-voodoo.

— 2022 – After an average preliminary round the Americans beat Switzerland in the quarters and then lost to the eventual champions Finland in the semi-final game. They actually were down 4-2 late in the 3rd, scored with an extra attacker to get within a goal before losing 4-3. The biggest name on each respective team was a defenseman, Seth Jones for Team USA and Miro Heiskanen for Finland. Site: Tampere, Finland.

— 2021 – The US, top seed in Group-B, lost 4-2 to eventual champion Canada, the 4th seed from Group-A. The Canadians led 3-2 early in the 3rd period and added an empty-netter. Darcy Kuemper made 36 saves for the winners. Cal Petersen started ahead of young Jake Oettinger for the Americans and made 29 stops. Andrew Mangiapane was the hero for Canada with two goals. Team USA had beaten Slovakia 6-1 in the quarters. Site: Riga, Latvia.

— 2020 – Team USA managed not to screw this one up because the tournament was cancelled due to Covid.

— 2018 – This was a beauty. Team USA out-shot Sweden 41-19 and lost 6-0. American goalie: Keith Kinkaid. To be fair, the Swedish line-up was absolutely loaded with NHL’ers. This was a classic case of the Europeans really valuing this tournament and wanting to play for their country while the USA, not so much. Site: Copenhagen, Denmark.

— 2016 – The US took a 3-2 lead with three straight goals in the 2nd period and were tied 3-3 with Canada entering the 3rd. Defenseman Ryan Ellis scored for the Canadians at the 1:34 mark of the final stanza and the goal held up. The Canucks roster was pretty well stacked, including some kid named Connor McDavid. The US countered with a young’un named Auston Matthews, while their best player was Dylan Larkin. Site: Moscow, Russia.

— 2015 – With Alexander Ovechkin added to their roster prior to this game, the Russians scored four *unanswered goals in the 3rd period to win the game 4-0. Sergei Bobrovsky picked up the shut-out in net. The Americans had finished as the top seed coming out of the preliminaries in Group-B, while the Russians were the 3rd seed. Site: Prague, Czech Republic.

*By the way, “unanswered goals” is one of the most often misused terms in hockey broadcasting. If the opponent scores again, then the goals have been answered. Listen for how many times you’ll hear “three unanswered goals” made reference to, despite the fact the other team scored the next two. Just saying.

In this particular game, they were actually unanswered goals.

— 2013 – A strong Switzerland team won their group, beat the Czechs 2-1 in the quarters and then shut-out the Americans 3-0. I was at this game and if I recall correctly, Swiss goalie Reto Berra kind of stood on his head in making his 29 saves. Team USA goalie John Gibson emerged in the medal round, taking over for an injured Ben Bishop. 19-year-old “Gibby” had just won World Junior Gold a few months earlier as the tourney MVP in Ufa, Russia.

Team USA won Bronze over Finland in 2013, they also won a Bronze Medal during this span in 2015, 2018, and 2021.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.