Finland folds up USA

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The projected gold medal winners of the 2006 World Junior didn't even manage to manufacture a medal.

"I thought we had a better team," said Robbie Schremp.

The tournament-favoured Americans - with nine first-round draft choices and another three projected in the first five picks this year - were the big busts of the event.

"The tie against Switzerland was the turning point," said the player who is Edmonton Oilers property and will go back to the OHL London Knights with his league scoring streak intact.

The USA won big, 11-2, over Norway to start the tournament then started to skid with a 2-2 tie against Switzerland, followed by a loss to Canada in a New Year's Eve Classic, a loss to Russia in the semifinal and a loss in the bronze medal game to Finland 4-2 here yesterday.

No one specializes in bronze medal games like Finland. It was the fourth one they've won in the last five years.

"We came in the supposed favourites with a big target on our backs," said Jack Johnson. "We didn't expect to be this bad."

Johnson who was loudly booed by the Canadian crowd after he nalied Steve Downie with an elbow when Kyle Chipchura was scoring a goal into an empty net on New Year's Eve, said he enjoyed playing in the environment.

Schremp agreed.

"It was a good atmosphere to play in."

Coach Walt Kyle said too much was made about the Americans being booed throughout the tournament in Vancouver.

"A lot was made of the environment. I want to say it was a great city to have a tournament. Hockey Canada put on a great event."

Kyle said some of his players performed well.

"Jack Johnson and Cory Schneider had a great tournament. A lot of guys selected at the bottom of our lineup had a great tournament. A lot of guys billed as dynamic offensive guys did not have a lot of effect five-on-five. Most of our goals came off the power play."

He defended Phil Kessel, who came here as the projected No. 1 pick in the draft and maybe lost that evaluation here.

"For Kessel's age, expectations were way out of whack for that kid."

Three members of the American team are Oiler draft choices, Schremp, Taylor Chorney and Geoff Paukovich.

"What happened to Schremp mirrors what happened to the American team," said Oilers' director of player personnel Kevin Prendergast. "He played pretty well, but didn't get a lot accomplished."

Schremp scored four goals in the World Junior last year but only managed one this year in arriving at the same points total of five.

"He had more responsibility and played better in his own end this tournament than he did last year," said Prendergast. "Overall he played better this year. But he didn't really accomplish much."

Schremp agreed with that assessment.

"I had plenty of chances. I had more ice time than last year when I pretty much just played on the power plays.

"I should have buried more."

Chorney, a second round Oiler pick, impressed Prendergast with signs he'll be able to play defence in the new NHL. He was undressed on one play against the Russians for the turning point goal in the semifinal, however.

"He had a pretty good tournament."

Paukovich, also a second rounder, was a third liner in the tournament.

"He did well when assigned to Russian superstar Evgeni Malkin," said Prendergast.


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