Super-prospect Auston Matthews of the ZSC Lions scored the only goal of the shootout to propel Team USA past the Czech Republic and into the Semifinals at the IIHF World Hockey Championships on Thursday morning in Moscow.
The shootout winner was Matthews’ second goal of the contest, his first tied the game 1-1 in the second frame. They were the only two goals needed for the USA to advance.
Tomas Zohorna of the Czech Republic opened the scoring on a penalty shot in the first period.
Keith Kinkaid stood tall in nets for the USA, saving 31/32 shots, many of them quality chances by the Czech team. However, Kinkaid was quick to defer praise to his teammates and credit a strong Czech squad that outshot the USA 32/28 (including a dominant 2nd period effort where they outshot the US 13-8):
“It could have gone either way,” he said in a post-game interview. “We were focused, and now we have a chance for a medal. We have to keep our energy up. Everyone is a hero for us today. Everyone was in there blocking shots, playing hard.”
The USA advances to the final four for the second consecutive year. They won bronze in 2015, also by defeating a strong Czech Republic team 3-0.
In tournament history, the Americans have two gold medals to their credit (1933, 1960) but have not made it to the final game since 1960. Since 2010, the USA has steadily improved their tournament ranking from 13th to 6th, along with two bronze medals in the last three tournaments.
The Americans, which defeated the Czech team 2-1 to advance to the Semis, will face the winner of Quarterfinal match between Canada and Sweden, which is currently underway.
The Semifinals are scheduled for Saturday.
Contributing writer and editor for the Montreal Canadiens at TheHockeyWriters.com. Head writer for Hockeytickets.ca. Ball hockey champion.