COLOGNE, Germany - Daniel Bellissimo was never drafted by an NHL team. But the Toronto-born goalie who plays for Italy showed how he could handle NHL shooters on Tuesday, at least those from the United States.
Bellissimo held Italy in the game for as long as he could but he slumped over in his crease with fatigue and disappointment when TJ Oshie scored in a sudden-death shootout to give the United States a 3-2 win.
It was last relegation round game for both teams and the odds of the United States being demoted to the world B pool were not good. The Americans had to lose by eight goals to be pushed out of international hockey's elite division.
As things turned out, the U.S. finished first in the relegation round standings and wound up in 13th place in the 16-team tournament. France was second for 14th place, while Italy and Kazakhstan are headed back to the B pool.
After losing all three games in the preliminary round, the U.S. team was under pressure to stay in international hockey's top pool. A demotion would have been embarrassing to both USA Hockey and to the NHL players wearing their American jerseys at the world tournament.
"There was an immense amount of pressure," said Brandon Dubinsky of the New York Rangers. "I do not know if that has ever happened, if the United States has ever been relegated before to that lower division, and none of us wanted to be a part of the first one."
"There was a lot of pressure and we sucked it up."
The Americans were all over the Italians from the opening faceoff, but Bellissimo stood his ground, making 49 saves. He also had a lot of help from his teammates as the Italians often had all five skaters down low protecting the net.
Dubinsky scored on a power play in the first period and the Italians tied it in the second.
Then the Italians sent a shockwave across the U.S. bench when they pulled ahead 2-1 in the third period on a weak wrist shot that former Toronto Maple Leaf goalie Scott Clemmensen misplayed.
Ryan Potulny tied the game and the U.S. had plenty of chances to take the lead again but Bellissimo was - as his family name translates — wonderful for the Italians.
Overtime didn't break the 2-2 knot and it was still tied after the first three shooters in the shootout.
International rules allow for a team to use the same player as many times as a coach wants in sudden-death and Oshie scored on his third sudden-death shot to win the game.
The Americans won and they were glad the 2010 world championship was over.
It wasn't what they had hoped for but 13th place was much better than 15th or 16th.
"I am glad we can look forward to next year. We're glad it is over but we're glad for next year," said U.S. captain Jack Johnson.