COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Team USA outshot Czechia 39-37, but fell 6-4 in the deciding game of the 2022 Athletix Five Nations Tournament at Ed Robson Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo, earning a second place finish.
“We had high expectations of what we wanted to accomplish,” said Dan Jablonic (Milwaukee, Wisc.), head coach of the U.S. Under-17 Select Team. “I thought we got a good start, but they matched it. We had our identity back by the third period and our players battled as hard as they possibly could. Today, Czech was the better team, and we respect that, but I'm extremely proud of the way our players represented the red, white and blue. It's disappointing for everybody, but in the big picture, USA Hockey's future is very bright with these 20 young men representing our country and I'm extremely proud of them."
Czechia scored the first of the game, leaving the U.S. in a deficit for the first time in the tournament. But Team USA quickly answered with a shorthanded goal. Dallas Vieau (Hermantown, Minn.) intercepted a pass in the defensive zone and sent the puck up the ice to Mac Swanson (Anchorage, Alaska). Swanson made a pass to John Stout (Minnetonka, Minn.), who sent the puck five-hole to tie the game at 1-1. The Czechs were able to score another, while on the powerplay, and finished the first period up 2-1.
Czechia then scored twice in the second period to make it 4-1. The U.S. was again quick to answer, scoring just 11 seconds after Czechia’s second in the pair of goals. Vieau fired a shot over the glove hand of Czechia’s netminder after a pass from Chase Stefanek (Yorba Linda, Calif.). A penalty shot then made things 5-2 at the 8:24 mark, and Thatcher Bernstein (Brookline, Mass.) replaced Caleb Heil (Victoria, Minn.) in net for the U.S.
A powerplay goal from Finn McLaughlin (Canmore, Wis.) at the 12:52 mark in the third brought the score to 5-3. Alex Bales (East Amherst, N.Y.) picked up an assist on the play. Team USA then pulled Bernstein for the extra attacker and Will Zellers (Maple Grove, Minn.) scored at the 17:29 mark to put the U.S. within one . But Czechia scored an empty-netter to seal the game at 6-4.
Heil and Bernstein spilt time in net for Team USA, with Heil stopping 15 shots and Bernstein stopping 22. Czechia’s Samuel Kowalczyk finished with 33 saves on 37 shots.
Switzerland and Slovakia played in the first game of the day, with the Swiss seeking their first win of the tournament. And they were the first to strike, maintaining a 2-0 lead until the beginning of the third period. Slovakia was able to put one away to tighten the game at the 4:04 mark, but Switzerland scored its third goal just under two minutes later to secure a 3-1 win. Both teams finished the tournament 1-0-0-3.
Switzerland’s Christian Kirsch earned his first win of the tournament with 24 saves, while Slovakia’s David Pohanka stopped 40 of the 43 shots he faced.
2. United States