|Pontus Aberg. Photo: eliteprospects.com.|
Friday's late game was the showcase event of the tournament, as the Czech Republic hosted the United States. After outscoring Sweden and Russia 16-6 in the first two games, the Americans were expected to have little trouble with the Czechs, who were perceived to be weaker. However, the Czech team had a boisterous crowd behind them, and it made for an emotional and physical first period.
|J.T. Miller. Photo: ushl.com.|
Things got even more physical in the second half of the opening frame, as Tyler Biggs knocked down Petr Šidlík behind the play and wasn't penalized, which drew the ire of the home crowd, and later, on a US power-play, Miller was cross-checked hard in front of the net, which also drew no call. The Czechs then killed off a 2-man disadvantage to the crowd's delight, and escaped the period tied.
The Czech team then came out flying in the second period, putting on all kinds of pressure and forcing John Gibson to make some of his best saves of the night. The Czechs out shot the US 11-9 in the middle frame, but couldn't beat Gibson. Bartošák came up big too, stopping Miller on a breakaway, but he couldn't stop Blake Pietila a couple of minutes later, as the left winger scored on a short-handed breakaway to give the Americans the lead.
"Travis Boyd, the guy I was penalty-killing with, made a nice play," Pietila said after the game. "He sent me on a breakaway and I ended up scoring."
Four minutes later, Nicolas Kerdiles stripped the puck off a Czech defenceman at the side of the net and quickly snapped the puck top shelf to make the score 3-1.
From that point, the Czech Republic didn't fold its tent, but at the same time they weren't able to cut into the US lead, and the game ended 3-1. Though they weren't expected to win the Czech Republic gave the Americans a scare, which is especially impressive considering their best player, Dmitrij Jaškin wasn't playing. Jaškin, the Czech team's only prospect rated to be picked in the first round of this year's NHL draft, is sitting out the tournament at the request of his club team, Slavia Praha, to give him a chance to rest his knee for the upcoming Extraliga playoffs.
"They were a lot better than I actually expected," Kerdiles said after the game of the Czechs. "They actually did a lot more (physically) than I expected. I guess that was their game plan."
The Czech-USA game can be seen in its entirety at:
After three days, the USA leads the tournament with a 3-0 record. The only other unbeaten team is Finland, at 2-0. Sweden is 1-2, and Russia and the Czech Republic are both 0-2. On Saturday, Finland plays Russia at 15:00 CET, followed by the Czech Republic and Sweden at 18:30.