The Washington Capitals contributed three members – John Carlson, Matt Niskanen and T.J. Oshie — to Team USA and they all came up big against Team Finland in the team’s final World Cup of Hockey (WCH) exhibition game. Today, the team heads north to Toronto for the WCH tournament that starts this weekend at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Last night, Oshie, found the net less than two minutes into the game, as Team USA continued to dominate throughout most of the game. Oshie’s line, that includes team captain Max Pacioretty at left wing and Ryan Kesler at right wing, was responsible for four of the eight points that Team USA earned.
Oshie was proud to have put up his first goal in the exhibition game, less than two minutes after puck drop. “It was nice to put one on the board before the tournament starts” Oshie said, and “nice to do it in front of the home town fans. It was off a good pass by Kesler” [Ryan Kesler]; I redirected it and found the net.” After his score, fans erupted into proud chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” to spur on the Team USA.
— MonumentalSportsNet (@MonSportsNet) September 13, 2016
“There’s just something special about playing on home ice,” said Oshie. “When you’re at your home rink you just feel comfortable it’s easier to feel where you are on the ice without having to look around.” He admits that all NHL rinks are the same size, so that must sound funny but, he insists, “It just seems easier.” “Your home rink works best with how your routine goes,” said defenseman John Carlson, who earned an assist last night on Derek Stepan’s goal in the second period agrees, “It’s way different from playing anywhere else.”
Verizon Center, known for its ardent Capitals fans, were out in full force last night and Matt Niskanen echoed Oshie’s sentiments about playing at home. “We take pride in playing here and want to play well at home”. Niskanen does go on to concede that while the cheers provide extra motivation, Team USA understands that this tournament is bigger than one game. “We know what’s at stake with this tournament and try our best to prepare regardless but it’s nice to play well for the home fans.”
Our Team USA Capitals all feel ready for when the WHC Tournament starts on Saturday – especially with the jump-start with the first two games against Team Canada. “With the rivalry there [with Team Canada] you have no choice but to be ready to play.” Oshie continued, “I think emotions wise we got engaged right away and now the legs are starting to feel back to where they should be”. Niskanen also feels he is getting stronger every day, “I feel better tonight than I did in the first game for sure. It’s coming.”
Team USA takes on Team Europe in their first official appearance in the World Cup of Hockey tournament this Saturday, 9/17 at 3:30 pm in Toronto. The team is optimistic as to how far they will go. “We meshed well tonight,” said Oshie. “Tonight it came together for us. We need to get in a couple of practices to sharpen up on some systematic things. But other than those last six to seven minutes, I thought we were playing pretty good.” Carlson agrees, “We’ve got a great team. We’ve got all the bases covered and it’s up to us.”
— Hockey Digest (@HockeyDigestNet) September 14, 2016
By Stephanie Judge