Tue Jan 03 05:12pm EST
CALGARY -- After their shocking ouster from the medal round, Team USA felt they still had a point to prove. They wanted to show the world they were still a hockey power despite being forced to play in the relegation round for the first time since 1999.
They focused that frustration on Latvia -- a small nation with 17 hockey rinks -- beating them 12-2 to now play for seventh-place in the tournament. And while the score was horribly lopsided, it's important to understand that there are more hockey rinks across the United States (1,800) than there are junior-aged players in Latvia (1,417).
"The biggest thing we wanted to prove is that we don't believe we should be here -- in the relegation round," said American forward Austin Watson (photo). "We believe we're a good hockey team worthy of being in the medal round, so we wanted to come out and have a strong game."
Watson led the U.S. attack with seven-points (three goals, four assists) and fell just shy of the tournament point record for a single game (10). He did however tie former Team USA juniors Ted Drury and Doug Weight, who each scored seven points during a game against Norway in the 1991 tournament. Once he had hit seven point, the talk on the bench started about trying to add to Watson's totals.
"It started going around, but it was in the third period it was talked about there," said Watson who currently plays for the OHL's Peterborough Petes. "You start trying a little bit too hard maybe. But that's a great record, to even have seven points in a hockey game is unbelievable so I'm very grateful to have that chance."
Watson started off the scoring for the Americans with a natural hat trick in the first period to make the score 3-0. Despite the scoring feat, the 19-year-old kept the celebration -- if you could even call it that -- down to a bare minimum.
"I was kind of in the moment," said the player of the game for the U.S. "I was trying to do my best and I was obviously happy scoring goals, but obviously we're not happy with the position that we're in and I think that kind of showed a little bit."
The United States will now face Switzerland in the game to determine who will finish seventh an eighth and set the pools for next year's tournament in Ufa, Russia. Prior to Tuesday's victory, the U.S. had lost three straight games to Finland, Czech Republic and Canada in Edmonton's Pool B.
When asked why the tournament fell apart for Team USA -- gold medallists in 2010 and bronze medallists in 2011 -- Watson was at a loss.
"I'm not sure," he said. "It's a funny tournament and things just didn't work out for us. I think the Finland game was a tough game for everybody and I think we played to the best of our abilities there. I think as the tournament went on we got better and better and we worked hard every night. It's unfortunate how the tournament ended, but right now we're playing for our pride."