The United States national junior team scored two goals in the first 2:02 to jump out to a 2-0 lead and never looked back, cruising to a 5-1 win over the Czech Republic in a near-complete performance in their opener at the 2014 World Junior hockey championships. Some outstanding goaltending by Czech goalie Daniel Dolejs prevented a bigger blowout, as the US outshot the Czechs 33-24 on the day.
Boston College freshmen Steve Santini and Ian McCoshen both had solid if unspectacular games for the US, not registering on the scoresheet but being part of a blue line that limited the Czechs to scant few opportunities. McCoshen was also a major contributor on the American power play, helping set up the US's second goal with some strong work from the point.
All five American goalscorers are NCAA hockey players, continuing a trend of collegiate stars anchoring the US team. Miami (OH)'s Riley Barber, the US team's captain, got it started 1:21 into the game by streaking down the left wing and banking home a shot from a bad angle, catching Dolejs sleeping to give the Americans the early lead.
40 seconds later, with the US on the power play, Ian McCoshen was part of a string of passes that opened up the Czech defense, allowing Minnesota Golden Gopher Will Butcher to knock home a feed from the back door. BU committ and 17-year-old Jack Eichel got the assist on the second goal; Eichel, the youngest player on the ice for the US, had a very impressive debut.
The game-clinching stretch game during the second period when the Czechs launched a barrage at Providence College goalkeeper Jon Gillies, who stood strong and kept the Czechs out. During the flurry, Connor Carrick took a tripping penalty at 6:48 of the period. The US did a fantastic job killing off the Czech penalty, then quickly answered with a goal of their own, when Minnesota's Hudson Fasching scored at 9:23 to make it 3-0.
Another US goal, scored by Colorado College's Jaccob Slavin, stretched the lead to 4-0 right before the second intermission, giving the Americans breathing room and largely ensuring a US win in the opening game.
The third period was a bit more uneven for the Americans, with the Czechs taking advantage of some sloppy defending throughout much of the early part of the frame. A power play goal by Michal Plutnar at 5:47 put the Czechs on the board and cut the lead to 4-1, but that goal largely served as impetus for the US to wake up and reassert control over the game. They did just that, adding one more insurance goal late on a gorgeous breakaway move by Notre Dame's freshman center Vince Hinastroza.
Special teams was a key part of the US's run to gold last year, as the Americans led the tournament in both power play goals and PK %. Both units were 2-for-3 today - a decent start. The US's only unsuccessful power play was an abbreviated stint at the very end of the game.
With Canada winning their early game 7-2 over Germany, the US sits in second place in Group A after day 1. The Americans are back in action against Slovakia on Saturday morning at 7:30 AM eastern time. The Slovaks will play their first game tomorrow afternoon against Germany, in a game that may prove key in determining who gets the fourth and final quarterfinal spot in the group.