By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com
Trevor Zegras had two goals and three assists to lead the United States to a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic in the 1,300th IIHF World Junior Championship game of all time. The result puts the U.S. in a tie for first place in Group B with six points and goes a long way to assure the team of a spot in the quarter-finals that will start on Saturday.
Bobby Brink added two goals and Cam York recorded three assists in the win.
With the loss the Czechs slip to 1-0-2 and remain in fourth place of a crazy Group B. They have but three goals in as many games.
Spencer Knight earned the shutout for the Americans by stopping 22 shots.
“We tried to prepare for today’s game in the same way we prepared for Russia, but it didn’t work,” said Czech forward Adam Raska. “We need to do better for our last game. We had some chances to score but we didn’t, and really there’s nothing else to say.”
Both teams came into the game under difficult circumstances. The Czechs had the near impossible task of trying to replicate their emotional high during their 2-0 win over Russia two days ago, while the Americans had to take their game up a serious notch after a very easy 11-0 win over Austria.
In the end, the Americans prevailed despite the Czechs’ effective strategy of collapsing five men around their goalie Lukas Parik and blocking every pass and shot possible.
Both teams now get a day off before their final preliminary round games on New Year’s Eve. The Czechs take on Austria in a critical game to begin that day, while the Americans will play Sweden in the final game of 2020, one that might very well decide top spot in the group.
This game began with two very different kinds of energy. The U.S. had territorial advantage for much of the opening period but didn’t create many great chances. When they did, goalie Parik was solid.
The Czechs, on the other hand, continued their strong defensive play while patiently waiting for their offensive chances. They had two or three great opportunities but couldn’t connect, leaving the game scoreless through 20 minutes. Both teams also had a power play but it was the p.k. that dominated in both cases.
But the Americans remained patient and aggressive, finally breaking through the Czechs’ group defence with three unanswered goals in the second. They opened the scoring at 5:33 when Brett Berard fired a shot at goal that was blocked. He followed the play in and got his own rebound, but as the puck trickled between Parik’s pads Karel Klikorka swept the puck off the goal line, only to have Brink push it home.
Eight minutes later, Trevor Zegras scored his tournament-leading fourth goal during a four-on-four. Jake Sanderson made a sensational no-look pass to Zegras while Parik overplayed the shot, and Zegras had an easy shot into the open cage.
Then, at 15:56 Brink was at it again from in close. This time he got his stick on the ice and went to the goal, redirecting a hard pass from Matthew Beniers behind Parik.
The U.S. didn’t quit, keeping the pressure on as the third began. They were rewarded at 6:03 during a delayed penalty when a loose puck came to Zegras at the faceoff dot. He wired a quick shot over Parik’s glove, his fifth of the tournament.
Two minutes later, the Americans got their first of three quick goals on the power play to put the game well out of reach. First, Arthur Kaliyev ripped a shot short side past Parik. Then, Cole Caufield scored on a shot off the rush. And, finally, Matthew Boldy scored from in tight.