International Ice Hockey Federation

USA gains ticket to semifinal

High powered offense too much for Czechs

Published 23.04.2015 18:18 GMT+2 | Author Chapin Landvogt
USA gains ticket to semifinal
LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 23: USA's Caleb Jones #3 lets a shot go towards the Czech Republic's Daniel Vladar #30 during quarterfinal round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The first quarterfinal began at 2:45 pm and featured the USA against the Czech Republic, two teams that began the tournament with disappointing losses.

Both were then able to improve with each and every game leading to the quarterfinals.

As expected, the action was heavy coming right out of the starting gate, but it was all USA in the puck possession department. For the Czech Republic, it was a game of cat and mouse, doing everything it could to ward off the barrage of shots and pressure it faced. They did just that effectively for over ten minutes.

At the 8:58 mark, the pressure finally paid off. While on their second power play of the period, Auston Matthews pounded in a one-timer from the right side of the Czech goal to open up the scoring. The goal came on a perfect pass from Christian Fischer.

Only seven seconds later, the US marched right back into the Czech zone and raised their lead to 2-0. Clayton Keller received a pass from Jeremy Bracco and was off to the races, placing the Czechs into a state of shellshock, one the team didn’t quickly recover from.

With seven minutes left to go in the period, the offensive onslaught continued as a shot was shoved in from the slot by Michael Floodstrand off a nifty pass from Brendan Warren. Less than 15 minutes into the game, it was already 3-0 for the USA.

The attack remained relentless and pucks brought to the goal eventually led to Captain Luke Kunin slipping in a goal from the left of the net. The 4-0 lead was established and for underager Kunin, it was his fourth goal in the past two games.

At that point, Czech coach Petr Jakub decided to pull goalie Daniel Vladar and put in Ales Stezka, who managed to calm things down and prevent the US from scoring in the last seven minutes of the period. In total, the USA outshot the Czech Republic 20-3 in the first period.

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The Czechs showed a different face in the second period, playing a much more organized game and ready to generate more offensive chances. This put the US on their heels for a bit and after seven minutes of play that took place primarily in the US zone, a one-time slapshot by Martin Svoboda from a good 20 feet out went over the glove hand of US goaltender Evan Sarthou and into the net. The shot was made possible on a lovely pass from Ales Furch.

This ended up being the only goal in the period, as the Czech Republic was able to prevent any further US scoring, but couldn’t get but a few more shots on Sarthou, who was always up to the challenge.

Apparently the USA didn’t take kindly to being shut down for a period, because their first shift in the third saw a lovely give-and-go between Matthews and linemate Matthew Tkachuk wind up in a Matthews goal to give the US a 5-1 lead.

Exactly two minutes later, the US pushed up the ante again and popped in their sixth goal of the afternoon. The Bracco goal came on the tail of sustained pressure and was assisted by Casey Fitzgerald and Colin White.

The period continued to be all USA until Pavel Zacha checked Mike Floodstrand off the puck and allowed for a 3-on-2 break, which Zacha was then able to finish off with a goal on a rocket of a wrist shot.
As has been seen so many times in this tournament, the US answer was yet another goal, this one coming off a tip into the goal from out of the air roughly a foot off the ice. The goal was by Kunin, his second of the day, and was assisted by Caleb Jones and Jordan Greenway.

The Czechs did what they could in amounting attacks, but even a short 5-on-3 power play didn’t lead to anymore quality chances.

When the siren ended the game, the US was off to the semifinal with a 7-2 victory, ending the tournament for the Czech Republic. They’ll play Saturday looking to win their way into the gold medal game this Sunday in Zug.

"You've got to work hard every game. We did that in the first, where we were very good. We had a lapse in the second, but regained our composure in the third. Sports keep you honest. When we weren't honest, we got outplayed. When we worked hard, we were rewarded. We need to maintain that focus heading into Saturday's game," explained US Coach Don Granato in conclusion.

As for the Czechs, coach Petr Jakub felt his program could learn from this game and the tournament. "In comparison to last spring, when we won the Silver Medal, we didn't have the whole team together to work with this winter. We spent a lot of time waiting for players to come over from the CHL and hadn't seen them since the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last summer. We started this tournament with suspended players, injuries, etc. All this hampered our progress out of the gate. The US has done a lot of winning at this level and compared to that US machine over in the other locker room, we knew what we were up against today. I won't say we're not disappointed, but put all these things together and we can be satisfied with what we achieved."

For the Czech program, this coaching staff and management, as well as surely many of these players, will be taking a step up into the U20 department and have their focus on those tournaments the next two winters.