2016 IIHF World Championship Report (Quarter-Finals)

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The USA is the perfect expression of how the game of hockey is growing around the world and they proved it again this year.

The Americans were never a hockey nation despite having plenty of people playing the game in the north.

They were considered part of that second tier of hockey teams and rarely ever played competitively against Russia or Canada.

The Americans were instead focused on the sports that they had invented and grew, in their national pastime, baseball, and the now biggest sport in the country, football.

That left a few cities playing hockey with nobody watching or even caring how well they did in international tournaments.

It simply wasn’t a sport that anyone cared about throughout the country but that started to change in the last 30 years.

As the NHL expanded to include more American teams and those American teams have been successful, more Americans are taking notice.

More athletes began playing hockey and the talent level began to grow giving the national team a far better pool to choose from.

USA Hockey is at a completely new level now than it was in decades past as there are simply better players in the system and available to play in international tournaments.

There is no doubt that the talent level is better now than it ever has been and that has been the case every year.

That being said the glory days of the Americans in the World Championships came almost 60 years ago.

In 1960, the Americans won their second and last gold medal while 1956 marked the last time they won a silver medal.

For all of the new talent in the system for the Americans, the best they have done in those 56 years is earning bronze.

It is a strange situation for American hockey as they have shown what can happen when a country begins to take the sport seriously and tries to develop it, especially a country as obsessed with sports as the USA.

Yet when it comes to one of the biggest international tournaments they don’t have the success that is expected.

It showed this year when the Americans came in with a fairly young team that included the supposed top pick of the NHL draft.

They were expected to compete with the best in their group but they struggled with their consistency.hockey-sidebar

Losses to Canada, Finland, Germany, and Slovakia the Americans dropped to fourth place barely earning a playoff spot.

They entered the quarter-finals against one of the best teams this year in the Czech Republic who had gone undefeated throughout the tournament winning every game in regulation.

The Americans stayed tough throughout the game pushing the Czechs to a shootout and scoring the only goal in the shootout.

The Americans moved into the quarter-finals for another year in one of the biggest surprises of the quarter-finals.

Now is the true test for the Americans though as they move into familiar territory in the semi-finals but territory where they are not too successful.

They have lost these semi-finals multiple times in the last few years leaving them to play for the bronze on a regular basis.

They will look to beat the Canadians in a rematch of their opening game loss and get into that final game.

The Canadians have looked good in the majority of their games this year and in their original match-up, Canada did not have the toughest time.

The biggest question will be if the Americans can put up more of a fight now that they have the confidence from their quarter-final win.

Whoever does take the match-up will head earn a medal as they await the winner of Russia-Finland as the tournament closes out.

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