U.S. blanks Czechs in QF
U.S. blanks Czechs in QF
Victorious Americans set to meet Finns next
Clayton Keller and Nicholas Pastujov stepped up with a goal and two assists apiece. Joey Anderson scored twice, and Graham McPhee and Ryan Lindgren each had a goal and an assist. Casey Mittelstadt and Trent Frederic added singles. Adam Fox had a pair of assists.
"We’ve been working hard and we’ve been getting rewarded," said Keller, who sits second overall in tournament scoring with 10 points. "I think we’re just going to continue to do that and come out strong for our game against Finland."
The U.S. edged the Finns 2-1 in overtime in last year's gold medal game. 2016 World Junior MVP Jesse Puljujarvi and his teammates are all that stand between U.S. bench boss Danton Cole taking his group to another final and a shot at a third straight gold medal.
"Any time you play the Finns, it’s going to be a battle," said Mittelstadt. "They’re super-skilled. It’s going to be a great game."
The American attack remains both balanced and bountiful, as all four lines contributed to the scoring here. Goalie Jake Oettinger recorded 15 saves for his first tournament shutout, as his teammates fired 38 shots at the Czech net.
"We came out in the first period and played very well defensively," said Czech coach Robert Reichel. "We tried not to give any chances to the U.S. team, and it worked very well. But after the first period, the U.S. scored two quick goals and they played very well. They had confidence in their game. They scored another goal, and after 3-0 we didn’t have a chance to come back."
For the ninth time in 10 years, the Czechs will finish outside the U18's top four. The exception was 2014, when they won a surprising silver medal.
Knowing they couldn’t afford to play run-and-gun, the Czechs tried to clog up the middle of the ice and collapse around their net to keep the more skilled Americans at bay. That rope-a-dope strategy was reasonably successful in the first period. Although mostly bottled up in their own end and outshot 13-2, the Czechs kept the game scoreless.
But the good times wouldn’t last long for Reichel’s gang.
"In the first period, we played real well, but we couldn’t break the dam and get in," explained Cole. "But we played the way we wanted to. We stuck with what we wanted to do: keep shooting the puck and don’t lose any confidence. Just keep playing the right way. Sooner or later, one will go in."
At 4:50 of the second period, the U.S. grabbed the lead. Logan Brown was allowed to tee up a huge slap shot right down the middle, and Mittelstadt banged the rebound past Czech starting goalie Josef Korenar.
"It was fun going to the net and kind of finding a greasy one," said Mittelstadt.
One minute later, it was 2-0 for the Americans when Frederic circled off the boards and through the right faceoff circle to slide a shot on goal. It squeezed through the kneeling Korenar’s pads – a tough one for the Czechs to swallow.
Czech forward Kristian Reichel (Robert’s son) appeared to get shaken up on a hit along the boards in the U.S. zone. He struggled to regain his footing and was held up by captain Marek Zachar. However, he recovered and would continue.
At 15:35, the Americans took a 3-0 lead. Keller fed it down low to Kieffer Bellows, and his deft reverse pass in front to Anderson was converted.
The U.S. killed off any hope of a Czech comeback just 36 seconds into the third period. With a one-timer along the ice from the left faceoff cricle, Keller finished off a tic-tac-toe passing sequence with Fox and Lindgren to make it 4-0.
At 3:20, McPhee added the fifth American goal, cutting from the left point to the middle and going top shelf on Korenar.
It took only 13 more seconds for the U.S. to go up 6-0, as Pastujov sprawled to knock a loose puck past the goalie's right skate.
That prompted Reichel to yank Kolenar in favor of Dominik Groh. It was purely a kind gesture. This was the first time Groh has seen action at this IIHF U18 World Championship.
At 9:51, Anderson got his second of the night shorthanded on a dazzling diagonal pass by Keller to make it 7-0. Finally, Lindgren rounded out the trouncing with a power play goal with 1:58 left.
"These games are hard in a different way mentally, trying to finish games out and do it the right way and not get away from the way we want to play," Cole said. "But when it’s tight, that’s hopefully when you’ll see our best."
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