Plenty of pride on the line for USA
WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
|USA goaltender Jack Campbell stands in his crease after giving up a goal to Canada during a World Junior Hockey Championship match at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 31, 2011. (TODD KOROL/Reuters)
CALGARY - They're still feeling a bit blue.
But they're also wearing red, white and blue, and that's the only motivation members of Team USA need as they ready for the relegation round at the world junior hockey championship.
"It's not the turnout that we wanted at this tournament, but we still have to finish strong. We're still putting on that USA sweater," said captain Jason Zucker.
"You can say it's cliche, but every guy in that locker-room truly cares about that jersey and that's why they're wearing it right now.
"These may be games that are hard to get up for since it is the relegation round, but it's something we have to do and I think our team will rise to the occasion."
The Americans arrived in Alberta as an obvious medal contender, with some experts even anointing them as the front-runners to win gold.
To say things haven't gone according to plan would be an understatement.
After an 11-3 destruction of Denmark on Boxing Day, they suffered a 4-1 setback against Finland.
Despite firing 54 shots on goal, they were essentially eliminated from the playoff picture by a 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic two days later, a result that turned their New Year's Eve showdown with Team Canada -- a 3-2 win for the hosts -- into a meaningless contest.
Instead of skating in Tuesday's semifinals, the Americans will face off against Latvia in a relegation-round contest.
Their final outing will be Wednesday's meeting with Switzerland, which is expected to decide the seventh-place finisher.
"Looking back, I still feel like our team is good enough that we should have advanced to the medal round, but we didn't get it done during the games and we only have ourselves to blame for that," said U.S. forward Bill Arnold, a student-athlete at Boston College and a fourth-round pick of the Calgary Flames.
"But everyone is still really focused. Nobody has checked out yet. There's no goofing off or anything. We're still here to play.
"At this point, it's all about pride. We want to play for each other and we want to play for our country. Even though we can't win a medal, we want to make sure we go out with two wins."
Zucker was the youngest member of the American squad two years ago in Saskatoon and has a gold medal to show for it.
The University of Denver forward added a bronze to his collection last year in Buffalo.
This year, he'll be headed home empty-handed.
"I don't think we did all the little things right," Zucker said. "We didn't get to the net when we needed to. Everyone together, I don't think we played defence well enough. I think there were a lot of things that factored into it. And we didn't score goals. That's what it came down to. That's something that killed us in this tournament."
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson