In last year’s WJC Quarterfinals, USA routed the Czech Republic 7-0. This year, the two countries faced off on the first day of the 2014 World Junior Championships. USA started out hot, applying pressure right off the opening face off and earned a power play in the first 30 seconds or so. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good and captain Riley Barber was lucky 1:21 into the game as he threw a backhand to the net from a bad angle and it snuck between the Czech goaltender Daniel Dolesj’s right skate and the near post. It just so happens that there was another Czech penalty on the goal, so the Americans went right back on the power play. Youngster Jack Eichel sent a nice pass from below the goal line through the crease to defenseman Will Butcher who made his way towards the far post and had an easy slam dunk.
The Czechs had their first continued offensive pressure in the second period. They would not be able to capitalize and the Americans would make it 3-0 when Hudson Fasching would cash in on a Dolesj rebound. Then, with just a few minutes left in the period, Dolesj would bobble a rebound and defenseman Jaccob Slavin potted it for a 4-0 USA lead. The USA put in cruise control from their, however, the Czechs would get a power play after Stefan Matteau would go off for slashing. A bad American turnover gave Czech defenseman Michal Plutnar a gift in the slot and blasted one by American goaltender Jon Gillies. Vince Hinostroza would give the Americans their four goal lead later in the third on a breakaway, 5-1 would be the final. Matteau would be named player of the game for USA.
It was important for the USA to come out with a good performance and start the tournament with a win. It’s almost a completely different team from last year and a win will always give a team confidence moving forward. USA always seems to be able to get scoring from everywhere in their lineup in these tournaments and they’ll need it without the presence of an Alex Galchenyuk or the presence of a Seth Jones on the backline. Next up for the Americans is Slovakia on Saturday.
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