On the back of a hat trick by Johnny Gaudreau, the US national junior team stomped the Czech Republic 7-0 and rode a wave of momentum into the semifinals, where they will play Canada tomorrow morning at 4 AM. Gaudreau was officially named Player of the Game and will take home a commemorative plate for his efforts. He now has 5 goals in his last 2 games, and amazingly is now the leading goalscorer in the tournament.
All of the struggles of Gaudreau specifically, and the US offense generally, are very much in the past now. The situation the US faces is this: they have two games left at World Juniors. One will be against Canada, and the other will be against either Russia or Sweden. While you might not bet on the US to win a seven game series against any of those teams, they certainly have enough quality to win at least one of the two - which is all they need to do to come home from Russia with a medal.
The story of today's game can be summed up pretty simply: The Czechs tried to play their trademark defensive, trapping style, but the US jumped out to a lead and got the Czechs off their game. Gaudreau tapped in a power play goal at 11:45 in the 1st, the only tally in a tight period. Then he repeated his act :28 seconds in to the second period. Ryan Hartman scored less than a minute later, and from there, the lights were pretty much out for the Czechs.
John Gibson didn't have to be stellar between the pipes for the US, but he was anyway, pitching a shutout and making a number of excellent stops.
So now the stage is set for USA-Canada - as it had to be, of course. Sunday's matchup between the two bitter rivals was a thriller, but the US didn't have enough offensive oomph to break down Malcolm Subban. BC fans know very well what a game-changer Gaudreau is when he's on fire, so hopefully the momentum that he and the rest of the US forwards have been able to garner over the past two games carries over and helps the US pull an upset tomorrow morning. It'll definitely be worth waking up for.