Cory Schneider made 30 saves in leading the United States to a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Monday before 14,890 at GM Place.
“We beat an excellent hockey team,” said U.S. head coach Walt Kyle. “Cory was outstanding tonight and we really played gutsy hockey, especially down the stretch. This was a win we needed and I’m really proud of our team.”
In a memorable first period, the two teams combined for 29 shots on goal, three goals, a couple of posts and nearly constant end-to-end action. As it wound up, the first period was the only stanza in which goals were scored.
The U.S. wasted little time getting out to a 1-0 lead as Phil Kessel buried one from the slot on the power play at 3:23, his first goal of the tournament. Jack Johnson and Jack Skille drew assists on the play.
Chris Bourque put home a goalmouth scramble for his seventh tally of the tournament at 11:08 to give the U.S. a two-goal lead, with Kessel and T.J. Oshie earning assists, but the Czechs made it a 2-1 game at 12:17 thanks to Ladislav Smid’s power-play marker.
Oshie nearly had a goal in the stanza, but his shot from the slot rang off two posts in the early minutes of the period. Peter Pohl from the Czech Republic also hit a post with 5:00 to go in the stanza.
There was no scoring in the second period, setting up a nerve-wracking third period.
The Czechs had a clean breakaway less than two minutes into the final period, but Schneider extended his right leg to foil a golden opportunity by Michal Birner. The U.S. also had some good fortune in the period as Michael Frolik missed an open net with a little more than nine minutes remaining.
The Czech Republic pulled goaltender Marek Schwarz with :39 left, but any hopes to tie the game were dashed on a great play by Oshie as he dove to the ice to and sent the puck out to the neutral zone as time expired.
Team USA played solidly in front of Schneider, helping its netminder by unofficially blocking 19 shots in the game.
The United States will play Russia on Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 8:08 p.m. PST in semifinal play. The game will be televised live by FOX Sports Net North. Canada plays Finland in the first semifinal at 4:08 p.m. PST.
Notes: Bourque scored his seventh goal of the tournament Tuesday and is just one short of tying the U.S. single-tournament record of eight, set by Jeremy Roenick in 1989 … Schneider has allowed just one even-strength goal in the four games he’s played in the World Junior Championship … Kessel leads the tournament in points with 1-9–10.