Team USA began play today in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden. Team USA is looking to win their third gold medal in five years. They took the first step in defending their title as they faced off against the Czech Republic. Team USA passed their first step with flying colors as they eased passed the Czechs by a score of 5-1
Team USA got out to an early 2-0 lead after capitalizing on back to back power play goals. Team captain Riley Barber opened the scoring as he raced down the wing and fired a shot on net from a bad angle that handcuffed Czech goalie Daniel Dolejs. Forty-one seconds later, defenseman Will Butcher snuck down below the circle and took a beautiful backdoor pass from Jack Eichel and fired it passed the Czech net minder.
The Americans were led by goalie Jon Gillies who made 23 saves in the victory coming in his first start in World Junior Championship play. The Czechs didn’t have many quality scoring chances but when they did Gillies was there to shut the door.
Team USA would continue their dominate play throughout much of the game. Aside from a small momentum shift during the second period, Team USA was able to limit the Czechs chances and play an aggressive forecheck game in the Czech end. The line of Stephan Matteau, Andrew Copp and Hudson Fasching was Team USA’s best line. They provided the strong forecheck on the Czech defense to create scoring chances and eventually goals. Matteau was named top player at the end of the game for the United States.
Team USA would go on to get goals from Fasching, Jaccob Slavin, and Vince Hinostroza. It is always good for a team to get off to a good start in tournament format and this victory sets Team USA on the right path. Captain Riley Barber said of the win:
It’s always good to get the cobwebs out and get a convincing win. I thought our team played great.
Next up for Team USA is Team Slovokia on Saturday night.