U.S. at a loss again

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

LEKSAND, Sweden -- Sebastien Stefaniszin had to be asked twice.

Minutes after the German goaltender led his team to an improbable 2-1 overtime victory against the U.S. at Ejendals Arena, the 19-year-old said the win ranked in the top 10 hockey accomplishments for his nation.

"Okay, top five," Stefaniszin, who made 38 saves, said after being queried again. "I think it is not really a surprise. We worked hard and they are not that much better than us."

SECOND-GUESSING

That may be a stretch. The Americans, who have perfected soul-searching and second-guessing in recent years at the world junior, are at it again and the 2007 tournament is just a day old.

In 18 previous games against Germany at the world junior, the U.S. won 15. Its most recent loss was in 1981.

A year ago in Vancouver, the U.S. had a blip in the round-robin as well, skating to a 2-2 tie with Switzerland.

"I think we took Germany a little lightly and we can't do this," said American forward Peter Mueller, who represented his country last winter. "We went through this last year with Switzerland. It's hard to take a loss like this."

The Americans would have escaped with some pride but ties have been abolished in the round-robin, beginning this year. Mueller equalled the game in the third period on a power play. But Marcel Muller stuffed the puck past American goalie Jeff Zatkoff at 1:51 of the extra period to bring his teammates streaming off the bench in joy.

There were raised eyebrows when the U.S. left two possible returnees, Bobby Ryan and Mark Mitera, off its roster as though it could afford to do so despite winning one world junior gold. But coach Ron Rolston, whose club gets Canada today, tried to say the right things afterward.

He came off sounding hollow.

"Not at all, not at all," Rolston said when asked if his players underestimated the Germans. "I think we have a lot of character in the room. We have a lot of faith in the guys that they can bounce back. We have to play with more urgency (against Canada)."


Videos

Photos