The U.S. National Junior Team earned a spot in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship quarterfinals with a win over Slovakia, but now faces Czech Republic on Wednesday at 4 a.m. ET.
The Americans struggled to score goals against Russia and Canada, but regained the offense against Slovakia with a 9-3 victory on Monday. If the team is to reach the semifinals it will need to keep that momentum against a Czech goaltender who has been very stingy this tournament.
Patrik Bartosak leads the Czech Republic in goal and has a 1.98 goals against average. He's seen 79 shots in three games and made 73 saves. The Americans have amassed 165 shots on goal in the tournament and will be sure to test Bartosak.
The Czech Republic has spread the offense around its lineup. Dmitrij Jaskin leads the team with five points (two goals, three assists), and overall 14 separate playes have registered points.
Team USA ranks third in the tournament in scoring efficiency and might look to special teams to crack the Czech defense and open the game. The Czechs have not been penalized often, they are 9th in penalty minutes, but when they are short handed they have struggled. On the penalty kill, Czech Republic has a 72% success rate and the American power play is scoring 29% of its chances.
The U.S. is the most penalized team in the tournament, but also has the best penalty kill percentage at 88%. Czech Republic has only three power play goals on 18 chances.
Team USA took Tuesday off to recover from back to back games, but did travel to the arena for a team photo (Video). Head coach Phil Housley has swapped defensive pairs and line combinations before and during the Slovakia game. He and his staff have spent time scouting Czech Republic to find the matchups that will give the U.S. its best chance to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
After nine goals against Slovakia, the U.S. has points from all but one player. Alex Galchenyuk leads the way with seven points (two goals, five assists) and Jacob Trouba has four goals for the team lead in that category.
Goaltending has been perhaps the teams best position so far. John Gibson has a 1.93 goals against average and has 103 saves on 110 shots faced. Given the number of penalty kill situations faced, Gibson has been everything coaches hoped for and then some.
The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to play Canada, which won Group B, in the semifinals on Thursday.
Wednesday's game will be aired live at 4 a.m. ET on NHL Network-U.S. USAHockey.com will also run a live game blog where fans can join the conversation to discuss the game.