Team USA’s first game of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships came against the Czech Republic, a team that they beat 7-0 in the Quarterfinals last year on the way to the Gold medal. Thanks to a fast start Team USA went up 2-0 on two power play goals. From there they rode goaltender Jon Gilies to a 5-1 victory.
The first goal of the game came with Team USA on the power play off of a Patrik Marcel hooking penalty. Riley Barber drew another penalty on his drive down the boards but before the Czech’s could touch the puck he put it into the net at the 1:21 mark of the first period. Matt Grzelcyk and Nicolas Kerdiles got the assist on the goal.
Forty-one seconds later it was Will Butcher’s turn to get a power play goal. Working off Petr Sidlik’s high sticking penalty that Barber drew on the way to scoring his goal Team USA worked the puck down low before making a cross ice pass to Butcher who was positioned just off the net on the weak side. Butcher simply tapped it in before Daniel Dolejs could get over to make the save. Jack Eichel and Ryan Hartman each earned an assist on the play.
The Czech’s finally settled things down after going down by two in the first 2:02 of the game, getting their first shot on goal shortly after. By the time the horn rang bringing an end to the first the Czech’s had 11 shots on goal to Team USA’s seven.
The Czech’s started to gain some momentum early in the second period eventually getting a power play when Connor Carrick was called for tripping at the 6:48 mark of the period. Team USA’s penalty kill took over from there not allowing the Czech’s a shot on goal while controlling the puck for a majority of the time getting one shot on goal themselves. Moments after killing off the penalty Team USA got its third goal of the game when Andrew Copp took a shot on goal that was blocked by Dolejs. It was Hudson Fasching following the play up to score on the rebound.
Late in the second it was Jaccob Slavin getting on the score sheet knocking in a bouncing puck in the crease. Quentin Shore was the player who got the puck down low on a shot from the point. The initial shot was tipped down into the ice by a Czech player not allowing Dolejs to get a clean play on it. As the puck bounced around in front of the goal it was Slavin who gathered it up to bury it into the net to put Team USA up 4-0.
The third period got started with a flurry from Team USA before they went on the penalty kill for the second time of game. This time it was Stefan Matteau going to the box at the 5:12 mark for slashing. The Czechs finally got on the scoreboard 31 seconds into the penalty when Michal Plutnar scored to make the score 4-1.
Team USA put the game further out of reach with 2:11 left in the game when Vince Hinostroza took an assist from Thomas Dipauli and Carrick to score on a breakaway.
Overall 13 different players got a point in Team USA’s first win of the tournament. They will need more of that along with the good goaltending from Gilies who stopped 27 of 28 shots to carry them through group play and then into the playoff rounds. Dominik Simon and Stefan Matteau each earned honors for the game. Nashville prospect Zach Stepan went out in the middle of the third period with an undisclosed injury.
Team USA’s next game comes two days from now on 12/28 against Slovakia at 7:30am ET. Slovakia will play their first game of the tournament tomorrow against Germany who lost to Team Canada 2-7 earlier today.