Saturday, December 22, 2012

Armia solid as Finns pound Team USA

Joel Armia continued his excellent string of pre-World Junior Championship action Saturday, directing a team-best seven shots towards to the net in 17:29 of work as Finland scored four third-period goals to roll past Team USA 5-1.

The Sabres' first round pick at the 2011 draft, Armia was a confident player with the puck, mixing deft passing and vision plays in with the usual one-on-one moves and quick-release wrist shots. Just as impressive for Armia was his physical game, as he willingly used his 6-foot-3, 191-pound frame to bump and shoulder the American defenseman as the game played out -- a sign that his October and November battles with concussion symptoms should be a non-factor when pool play begins on Dec. 26.

Wisconsin defenseman Jake McCabe continued his steadiness and awareness on the American blueline despite the late collapse and undisciplined penalties. The USA NTDP product, who remained paired with Phoenix prospect Connor Murphy but also saw shifts with 2013 eligible Seth Jones, made a nice shot block early on the penalty kill and showed superb footwork in his own zone while garnering 16:56 of work.

A power play producer with the Badgers over his first year-and-a-half in Madison, the collegiate sophomore looks to have gained the trust of coach Phil Housley, and will likely survive the evening's final cutdown to remain with Team USA when play opens Dec. 27 versus Germany.

Final roster decisions are to expected be made by end of business Saturday.