Magazine Musings: U.S. 3, Czech Republic 1 (QF)

Five Takeaways From The U.S. Quarterfinal Win Over The Czech Republic

The U.S. National Junior Team used a stifling defense to shut down the Czech Republic to earn a 3-1 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. With the win the U.S. punches its ticket into the semifinals against Russia. The faceoff will be Friday at 4 p.m. (ET) at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. Catch all the action on the NHL Network.

 

Setting the Tone

This U.S. team is at its best when players are pushing the pace. They did that from the drop of the puck and continued to keep the Czechs on the heels for most of the game.

 

As head coach Mike Hastings has stressed all tournament, the U.S. started strong, outshooting the Czechs, 13-6. They finished the game with a dominating 41-19 shot margin.

 

Cates And Co.

Noah Cates cashed in a nifty feed from Jack Hughes to stake the U.S. to a 1-0 lead in the first period. Cates’ first goal of the tournament was a welcomed development as the U.S. continues to push for offensive contributions throughout the lineup. The Stillwater, Minn., native became the 7th forward to pot a goal for the Americans in the tournament.

 

If the U.S. can continue to get balanced scoring it will be a big lift when they face the high-powered Russians in the semifinals.

 

Welcome Back, Jack

Making his return after missing three games, Jack Hughes didn’t miss a beat as he ignited the U.S. offense from the drop of the puck. The Orlando, Fla. native showcased why he is likely to be selected first overall in the upcoming NHL Draft, dominating play for stretches at a time while keeping fans on the edge of their seats and Czech defenders on their heels.

 

He combined with his brother Quinn on an early give-and-go attempt that was turned aside by Czech goaltender Lukas Dostal, and set up Cates at the 12-minute mark for the game’s first score.

 

Hughes had eight shots in 13:54 of ice time.

 

Time And Space Take Away

For the second straight game, the U.S. defense did a good job of minimizing high-danger scoring chances from the opposition. The U.S. were able to control the pace and keep most of the Czechs offense to the outside, allow Cayden Primeau to track pucks from the perimeter.

 

Phil Kemp and Mattias Samuelsson were particularly strong, while K’Andre Miller was able to shake off the flu bug and show why the N.Y. Rangers made him a top pick in last year’s draft.

 

The Czechs lone goal came on the power play off the stick of Martin Kaut in the high slot as Primeau only surrendered one goal for the second straight game. 

 

Through three appearances, Primeau has stopped 56-of-60 shots, good for a1.33 goals-against average and a 93.3 save percentage. The Voorhees, N.J., native appears to be settling in and you have to think head coach Mike Hastings goes back to the Canadiens prospect in the semifinals.

 

Ready For Russia

It didn’t take long for the U.S. to figure out its dance partner in the semifinals as Russia sprinted out to a 7-0 lead through two periods on the way to an 8-3 drubbing of Slovakia. 

 

Russia will certainly be the United States’ toughest task so far after going through the preliminary round 4-0-0-0, including a 2-1 win over Canada on New Year’s Eve. Pyotr Kochetkov has been the Russians go-to choice in net, holding a 1.05 GAA and 96.5 save percentage in three contests. Forwards Grigori Denisenko (FLA, 7 points) and Vitali Kravtsov (NYR, 6 points) and defenseman Alexander Romanov (MTL, 7 points) and Alexander Alexeyev (WSH, 6 points) will be players to watch. 

 

The U.S. faced off against Russia in the quarterfinal last year, prevailing 4-2. Kiefer Bellows scored twice, Kailer Yamamoto added another and Josh Anderson had an empty-net goal in the win.

 

The other semifinal matchup will feature a surprise pairing after Switzerland shocked Sweden, 2-0, and Finland outlasted Canada, 2-1, in overtime to shake up the bracket.

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