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USA Makes Quick Work of Czechs, Setting Up Historical Rematch With Canada

Noah Sachartoff |
February 19, 2014 | 11:29 a.m. PST

Staff Writer

Team USA's James van Riemsdyk scores early against the Czech Republic (@TheBuffaloNews/Twitter)
Team USA's James van Riemsdyk scores early against the Czech Republic (@TheBuffaloNews/Twitter)

Thirty-four years, nine Olympics, one Soviet collapse, and zero gold medals after the famed "Miracle on Ice" of 1980, the 2014 United States Olympic hockey team is creating their identity as a team of destiny, one lopsided win at a time. Outside of a hard-fought, thrilling shootout win against Russia last Saturday that will be remembered for ages to come, the Americans have made quick work of every team they have played in Sochi. 7-1 over Slovakia, 5-1 over Slovenia, and today, 5-2 over the Czech Republic. 

James van Riemsdyk got the scoring started early in the first period (before most of us back home could find what channel the game was on), with a short, tough angle jam through Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. The Czechs tied the game on an own-goal when USA defenseman Ryan McDonaugh attempted to clear the puck out of the crease, instead bouncing it off teammate Ryan Suter's skate, past Quick, into the net. After a few minutes of shaky play, the Americans regained their composure and found their offensive stride in the Czech zone. 

Dustin Brown broke the tie with a wrist shot off of a beautiful cross-ice pass in front of the goal from David Backes later in the first, and with 1.8 seconds left in the period, Backes put in one of his own, finding the smallest of holes from a near impossible angle at the side of the net. USA Captain Zach Parise joined the scoring party in the second period on the first power play of the game, marking the end of the night, and the tournament for Pavelec, who was pulled for a backup.

Each team added a goal in the third, as the Americans cruised to their fourth straight victory in these Olympics, yet another lopsided win. 

Across the street, as the U.S. was cruising, Team Canada was having a curiously tough time finding the net against heavy underdogs Latvia. After outshooting the Latvians 52-12 (not a typo), the Canadians finally broke a 1-1 tie late in the third period on a power play one-time slapshot by defenseman Shea Weber. 

The USA will now face off against Canada on Friday (9am PST) in what might be the most watched Olympic semifinal since Team USA played the Soviets in 1980. This is the matchup that North American hockey fans have been looking forward to since the 2010 Vancouver games, when Sidney Crosby stunned the Americans and brought Canada back to the top of the hockey world, winning the gold medal on a sudden-death overtime goal in what was considered by many to be the greatest hockey game ever played. 

The stakes will be high on Friday, as both of these teams are on a clearly stated "gold-or-bust" mission in Sochi. While the Americans have been steamrolling through their opponents, the Canadians have had a tough time finding the back of the net, despite fielding an unprecedented group of scoring and playmaking forwards. Sidney Crosby has been limited to two points in the tournament so far, with the bulk of the team's scoring coming from Jeff Carter, and defensemen Drew Doughty and Shea Weber. 

The hype leading up to this game will be absolutely massive. Millions of Americans will be talking about and watching hockey for the first time in four years, and for many, the first time in their lives. Those who watch can expect a tense, physical game that will be defined by all-stars on every line, monumental stakes for both teams, and four years of anticipation by hockey fans around the world. 

Will a Canadian team struggling to live up to its potential will show up against an American team outscoring opponents 20-6? We'll find out Friday.


Follow Staff Writer Noah Sachartoff on Twitter.



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