At the 2021 World Junior Championship, the United States built upon Saturday’s dominant 11-0 win over Austria with another complete win over the Czech Republic by a 7-0 score. This game felt much more competitive, with the United States outshooting its opponent 32-22. It was a slow start for the Americans, as the game was tied after the first period. Consistent pressure from the United States broke the game open in the second period and put it out of reach in the third.
The win gives the United States some breathing room in the standings before taking on Sweden on New Year’s Eve. The two teams are at the top of Group B – with Sweden having played one fewer game – before taking on Russia on Wednesday. Thursday’s matchup could very well decide who finishes the preliminary round atop Group B, but in any event, the United States will play in the quarterfinals beginning on Jan. 2.
Spencer Knight Recovers
The United States went back to goaltender Spencer Knight after giving Dustin Wolf the start in the 11-0 win over Austria. Knight was pulled late in the second period of the team’s first game against Russia after giving up four goals on 12 shots in the loss.
This time around, he faced 22 shots from the Czech Republic and turned them all aside for his first shutout of the tournament. Knight did not record a shutout in his four appearances in last year’s tournament. The Florida Panthers prospect will be looking to build on this strong performance if he draws the start against the Swedes on New Year’s Eve.
Special Teams Success
The United States killed off their only penalty and otherwise stayed out of the box aside from coincidental roughing minors in the second period. The highlight for the Americans in this game was their ability to cash in on the power play. The power play had generated plenty of chances in previous games but broke through in a big way with three goals with the man advantage in this one.
Power-play goals were scored by Arthur Kaliyev, Cole Caufield, and Matthew Boldy, with three players recording multiple points with the extra man. Trevor Zegras had two assists on the power play and finished the game with two goals and five points. He continued his strong tournament, while Caufield had a much-needed strong game with a goal and an assist on the power play.
The United States has all their scorers buzzing after this game and will be a very dangerous team if this trend continues. With the quarterfinals starting on Saturday, more games like this one will bode well for a strong finish for the Americans.
Defensemen Adding Offense
The Americans have been getting contributions from their entire lineup, and their defensemen were particularly involved in this game. Cam York led the way with three assists, two of which came by way of him quarterbacking the American power play. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect leads all defensemen in the tournament thus far with a goal and six points through the team’s first three games.
Defensemen Brock Faber, Henry Thrun, and Ryan Johnson each added an assist and were present in creating chances throughout. Faber pushed his assist total to three in three games, proving to be a key part of driving offense from the blue line. The Los Angeles Kings second-round pick in this year’s draft is carving out a larger role for himself after a strong start to the tournament.
The United States put together very strong games against the Czech Republic and Austria, but face more challenges in the coming days. They will face their toughest test to date when they play Sweden on New Year’s Eve. Having a disciplined game like this one will give them a good chance, but a highly skilled Team Sweden will require a complete performance from the Americans.
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Covering the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. MBA Sports & Entertainment Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Formerly Marketing Intern with the American Flag Football League & Operations Intern for the Long Island Nets, G-League Affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.