It was not the result they had hoped for: Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau will be heading home from the World Junior Hockey Championships in Calgary earlier than expected after Team USA completes its regulation games.
The current leaders of the offensive attack at the University of Minnesota have found some success against lower-seeded teams, but like most of the American team their scoring touch seemed to disappear against top-level squads.
On Tuesday, Bjugstad, a Blaine native, scored three goals -- all in the second period -- and added two assists as the U.S. rolled to a 12-2 victory over Latvia in a relegation round game.
Rau, an Eden Prairie native, had one goal on a power play in the second period and added two assists.
After beating Denmark, 11-3, in its first game of group play, the U.S. team had scored only five goals in consecutive losses to Finland (4-1), the Czech Republic (5-2) and Canada (3-2). It did not make the medal round.
The U.S. will play its final World Junior game against Switzerland at 4 p.m. Wednesday for seventh place in the tournament. The U.S. beat Switzerland, 7-3, on Dec. 21 in an exhibition game.
So far, in five tourney games, Bjugstad has four goals and two assists and a plus-3 rating. Rau has two goals, three assists and an even rating.
Because the U.S. team did not reach the World Junior semifinals this year, its players will finish the tournament one day early. For Bjugstad and Rau, it means they will be back in Minneapolis on Thursday and have an extra day rest before the Gophers play Notre Dame on Saturday at Mariucci Arena.