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US Defeats Czech Republic 5-1 At WJC

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Americans get five goals from five different goal scorers in the first game of their title defense

Bruce Bennett

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.