Noah Cates (Stillwater, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) opened the scoring, Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) netted the game winner and Sasha Chmelevski (Northville, Mich./Ottawa 67s) sealed the game with an empty-net goal as the U.S. National Junior Team beat the Czech Republic, 3-1, in its quarterfinals contest of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"We knew if we put together a good 60 minutes of hockey that we'd be able to get the job done and our team was rewarded with a hard-fought victory here tonight," said Mike Hastings, head coach of the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team. "We keep saying this process is about continuing to take steps and that's the opportunity we've given ourselves. We're on to the next round and have the chance to continue writing our own history. We'll enjoy this tonight, but come tomorrow our focus turns towards the semifinal."
With the win, the U.S. (4-0-1-0/W-OTW-OTL-L) will move to Vancouver where it will meet the winner of the Russia-Slovakia game on Friday (Jan. 4). Puck drop for that game will be 1 p.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) at Rogers Arena and be televised live on NHL Network. This is the fourth-consecutive year the U.S. advances to the semifinal round after advancing to win gold in 2017 and bronze in 2016 and 2018.
The U.S. opened the game with a series of chances off the sticks of Jack Hughes (Orlando, Fla./U.S. National Under-18 Team), brother Quinn Hughes (Orlando, Fla./University of Michigan) and Chmelevski, but all saw their chances denied by Czech goaltender Lukas Dostal.
As the game stretched towards the midway point of the period, the U.S. broke through when Cates beat Dostal at the 7:48 mark. The play started in the U.S. zone with U.S. goaltender Cayden Primeau (Voorhees, N.J./Northeastern University) stuffing an attempt by Czech forward Matej Pekar. With the puck on the stick of Dalimil Mikyska, Jack Hughes lifted his stick, stole the puck and rushed up the ice with an oncoming Cates. After crossing the blue line, Hughes curled in the slot and lifted a pass down low to Cates who cut the puck around a sliding Dostal and into an empty net for the 1-0 U.S. lead.
With 3:30 to play in the frame, Primeau was called on again, this time denying Filip Kral with a strong stick save before denying a driving Jakub Lauko a minute later as the U.S. entered the first intermission up, 1-0.
The U.S. came out with a jump in the middle frame, firing off the period's first eight shots and collecting a handful of chances before Norris doubled Team USA's lead at the 6:10 mark. Jason Robertson (Northville, Mich./Niagara IceDogs) started the play, winning a battle along the boards in the neutral zone and sending the puck into the middle of the ice where Norris was able to pick it up and skate in for a breakaway goal.
With a 2-0 lead, the U.S. stifled any offense the Czech generated, blocking shots and disrupting passing plays with quality stick movement. On the other end of the ice, U.S. captain Mikey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) took a quick shot that rang off the cross bar with 8 minutes remaining in the period.
The third period, which opened with a 26-11 U.S. shot advantage, saw the U.S. continue to press. Just 40 seconds into the frame, a nice passing play nearly gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead when Madden found Cates at the right post for a chance was gloved by Dostal. Madden had his own chance denied just seconds later as he tried to jam home a rebound from an initial shot by Evan Barratt (Bristol, Pa./Penn State University).
With 8:31 to play in regulation, Czech forward Martin Kaut one-timed a pass in the slot from Martin Necas that wiggled through Primeau's legs to trim Team USA's lead to 2-1. The goal was the first powerplay goal allowed by the U.S. so far in the tournament through 11 opportunities.
The U.S. was able to frustrate the Czechs zone entries to keep Dostal in net in the last few minutes of the game before the Czechs were finally able to pull their goalie with 54 seconds remaining in the game. Just 15 seconds later, Chmelevski took a chance at the empty net from the face-off circle of the U.S. defensive zone that glanced off the post and in to give the U.S. the 3-1 win.
Primeau stopped 18 of 19 shots he faced to help send the U.S. to its fourth quarterfinal win in tournament play.
NOTES: Forward Noah Cates was tabbed U.S. Player of the Game ... The U.S. outshot the Czech Republic, 41-19, went 0-for-3 on the power play and 0-for-1 on the penalty kill. For complete game statistics, click here ... Russia (1A) and Slovakia (4B) play at 10:30 p.m. eastern time The other side of the bracket will see Finland meet Switzerland after the Fins defeated Canada (2-1, OT) and the Swiss edged Sweden (2-0) … John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.), assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, is serving as the general manager of the U.S. National Junior Team ... The U.S. enters the tournament having medaled in three straight World Junior Championships for the first time in U.S. history after earning gold in 2017 and bronze in 2018 and 2016 ... NHL Network is the official U.S. broadcaster of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. For more information about the tournament, click here.