Life, as we know it, is close to ending for this year’s U.S. World Junior team.
A 5-2 loss to the Czech Republic on Friday all but sealed the Americans’ fate. A Finland win over Denmark, a team that hasn’t won in this year’s tournament, will officially eliminate the Americans.
The U.S. will face Canada on Saturday in its final preliminary-round game of the tournament.
“I’m extremely disappointed, but am still focused on tomorrow’s game,” said Team USA coach Dean Blais. “Our players have a lot of pride and we will be ready to go tomorrow.”
Things opened well for Team USA as it took a 1-0 lead at 5:14 of the first period on the power play. J.T. Miller fed a pass from the left circle across the slot to T.J. Tynan (Notre Dame), who tapped the puck into a wide open net for his first goal of the tournament.
But the Czech Republic scored to even the score at 1-1 after one period.
Team USA regained a one-goal lead midway through the second when Boston College’s Bill Arnold fired home a rebound off of a shot by captain Jason Zucker (Denver).
The Czech Republic responded once again, however, sending the game into the third period tied, 2-2.
The turning point of the game came midway through the third period when USA’s Josh Archibald (Nebraska-Omaha) earned a penalty shot when he was tripped while driving to the net. Czech Republic goaltender Petr Mrazek made a save on Archibald’s attempt, keeping the game tied, 2-2.
From there, the Czech Republic went on to score three times, including an empty-net tally late, to secure the victory.
The Americans’ best hopes lies in earning six points (two wins) with a regulation victory over Canada on Saturday. Still, the Americans would need a Finland to lose its final two games to Denmark and the Czech Republic to have a chance to advance.