U.S. Beats Czech Rep., Will Play for Under-18 Gold
The United States National Under-18 Team, featuring a roster stocked with college-bound players, defeated the Czech Republic, 3-2, Friday in Minsk, Belarus, to advance to the gold-medal game of the Under-18 World Championship.
Team USA will meet Russia in the gold-medal game at 10 a.m. EDT on Sunday, April 18, with live audio available on usahockey.com. It will mark the third consecutive year the two teams have met in a medal-game in this tournament, and a rematch of the gold-medal game that the U.S. won in 2002. Russia defeated Canada, 5-2, in Friday’s other semifinal game to advance.
The opening goal of the game came on the U.S. power-play as Bryan Lerg fed a pass behind the goal line to Nathan Gerbe, who slid a pass to Lerg from behind the net. Lerg released a shot past Czech goaltender Marek Schwarz at the 10:25 mark of the first period.
The Czechs tied the game just over a minute into the middle period as Michal Gulasi scored on a screen-shot past U.S. goaltender Cory Schneider.
Tom Fritsche put the U.S. back on top with his first power-play marker and second goal of the tournament exactly 18 minutes after the first U.S. goal at 8:25 of the middle period. It was the fifteenth U.S. power-play goal of the tournament. Working the right side of the ice, Brandon Scero sent a saucer pass to Kevin Porter who was poised at the blue line. Porter blasted a shot on net where Fritsche gathered the rebound and knocked in the puck.
A pair of Madison, Wis.-natives parlayed a two-on-one in the second period for the eventual game-winner. Phil Kessel gave the U.S. a two-goal margin notching his sixth marker and second game-winning score of the tournament by tapping in a feed from Jack Skille. Kessel, with a Czech defender on his back, charged down center ice and knocked in a well-timed centering pass from Skille on the odd-man rush.
The Czech team would score the final goal of the game as Jan Danecek tallied on a power-play with less then four minutes remaining in the second period.
Zach Jones, Geoff Paukovich and Jarod Palmer led the U.S. defensive corps, which stymied the Czech Republic's increased third-period pressure. Palmer was named the game's best player for the U.S.
Schneider posted 34 saves, including 14 in a crucial third period, to record his fifth win in the tournament.