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Team USA Routs Czech Republic, 5-2 to Advance to Semis

by Photo of Gil Santos

Team USA are on their way to the semifinals after a dominant performance against the Czechs.

Team USA Routs Czech Republic,  5-2 to Advance to Semis

The United States are one step closer to their first gold medal since 1980 as they defeated the Czech Republic handily, 5-2, to earn a spot in the semifinals.

After U.S.’s David Backes (St. Louis Blues) scored a back breaking goal with just 1.8 seconds left in the first period to make the game 3-1, the Czech Republic could not come overcome the deficit. It was full team effort for Team USA as 12 different players had at least a point. In addition, five different players scored in the win.

The crease belonged to Team USA all game. All five of their goals came within a few feet of the blue paint in front of goal. They used their size to outwork and wear down the Czechs. Moreover, they showed they can score from anywhere from the ice. James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Backes scored from absurd angles.

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings) was solid in net and was not challenged much, stopping 21 of 23 shots. He made some key saves in the middle of the first period, when for a brief spell the Czechs were riding a wave of momentum and applying serious pressure.

Despite having success on the big ice in Olympics past, the Czech Republic will fail to medal for the second straight Olympics. It was an inconsistent tournament for the Czechs with a myriad of questionable decisions as they finish with an overall 2-0-0-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record.

The game started out fast and furious. Team USA was able to get the first goal within the first minutes of play. Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks) battled hard along the boards and found James van Riemsdyk while falling down. van Riemsdyk beat Czech goalie Ondrej Pavelec from a bad angle.

However, the Czech Republic would respond quickly with an odd goal. During a U.S. line change, the Czechs transitioned quickly to create a 4 on 3 rush. David Krejci of the Boston Bruins fed it to Ales Hemsky (Edmonton Oilers), who made spin-o-rama move, and he put the puck on net. On the ensuing scramble, U.S. defenseman Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) tried to clear the puck out of the crease, but ended up shooting it off fellow defenseman Ryan Suter’s skate into the net.

With the Czechs slowly seizing momentum, Team USA took it right back with a goal late in the first period. Backes executed a beautiful pass to Dustin Brown from across the ice. Brown roofed the puck from below the left circle to give the U.S. the lead, 2-1.

In the waning seconds of the opening period, Backes came up big again and scored a sharp-angled goal with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock. Suter seemingly shot the puck wide on purpose, which then bounced off the boards to Backes. He was able to collect it and shoot it between Pavelec’s glove and pad from a bad angle to make it 3-1.

In the middle of the second period, Team USA capitalized on a power play to give them more breathing room. Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks) bombed a shot off the boards, which then caromed to the front of the net. Captain Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild) was able to out-muscle his former Devils teammate Marek Zidlicky and banged it home for a 4-1 lead.

Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel topped off the scoring for the U.S. with his fifth goal of tournament to put the game more out of reach at 5-1. With the goal, Kessel is tied for the most goals in the Olympics with Austria’s Michael Grabner.

Czech Republic was able to get a consolation goal when Hemsky put in his second tally of the game at 13:00.  

Team USA is also looking for its first medal on the big ice in Europe. Since NHL players were first inserted into the Olympics during the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, the U.S. have failed to medal outside of North America.  

This team, however, looks like they are well on their way to end that streak.

When the team was first revealed back in January during the Winter Classic, Team USA and Nashville Predators’ general manager David Poile and his management group received loads of criticism. However, with the team earning a spot to the semifinals and looking dominant as ever, they should now be getting a lot of praise.

Poile and his group made it clear early their goal was not to pick an All-Star team.

“We did not pick the best 25 players. We picked the best 25 players that we thought give us a chance to compete to win a gold medal,” said Poile back in January during the Team USA press conference after the team announcement. 

They had a clear vision in mind and so far it has worked out beautifully. It is unfortunate Poile is not in Sochi to see it live, but he should very pleased with the team he formed.

Team USA will now face their North American rivals, Canada, in a much anticipated game to set up a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game. Hopefully this time around, it will be the U.S. that will come up on top. 

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