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Captains Lead Americans Past Czechs

02/19/2014, 3:30pm EST
By Cameron Eickmeyer -

SOCHI, Russia - With elimination on the line in any hockey tournament, coaches look to their captain to lead. U.S. men's Olympic head coach Dan Bylsma is lucky to have more than one at his disposal.

On a roster filled with NHL stars, it was the players who wear letters on their chest who stepped up big in Wednesday's 5-2 quarterfinal victory over Czech Republic.

After Czech Republic tied the game 1-1 in the first period, goals by Dustin Brown, who captains the Los Angeles Kings, and David Backes, the captain of the St. Louis Blues, helped pull Team USA away.

"We talked about it in the summertime, talking about that in that group there were going to be a lot of guys who were not going to have (assistant captain letters) that would be leaders," Bylsma said, "and they've done it not with a letter on their jersey but with their leadership."

In the second period Zach Parise, who serves as an assistant captain with the Minnesota Wild and captains the U.S. team, scored a power-play goal.

"We knew we had a strong group of guys in this room who are leaders," Bylsma said.

The coach pointed out that the leaders help fuel response to adversity and said goals scored in response to opponent's goals in games against Slovakia and Russia preceded the response Wednesday night.

"The response from our group has been strong," Bylsma said. "You see that throughout our lineup."

The team doesn't look to the players with captain experience, said Ryan Suter, an assistant captain with both the Wild and Team USA, because he said each player knows his own responsibility.

"You don't have to say much with a great group of players like this," said Suter, who had three assists against Czech Republic. "You just worry about yourself."

Ryan Kesler, who serves as an assistant captain with the Vancouver Canucks, chipped in two assists.

James van Riemsdyk, who scored the first goal, said the leadership up and down the roster had set the tone of selfless play and allowed the team to come together closer than he's seen before.

"From all the international teams I've been on where it's a setting like this, everyone has checked their ego at the door and is looking for the betterment of the team," he said. "I think we have a pretty cohesive group and that can only help as the tournament goes on."

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Tag(s): 2014 - Sochi, Russia