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Game Day: USA vs. Czech Republic (Preliminary Round)

By USA Hockey, 04/18/14, 11:45PM EDT


Today's Contest

The U.S. National Under-18 Team takes on the Czech Republic in its second preliminary round game of the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship. Puck drop is slated for 8 a.m. EDT in Lappeenranta, Finland.

"We kept it positive after a tough loss on Thursday," said U18 forward Jared Fiegl (Parker, Colo.). "We need to stick to our gameplan and eventually it will work out for us. It's time to forget about the game versus the Swiss, learn from it and focus on the Czech Republic."

This is the second game for both squads in the tournament. Team USA was previously dealt a 4-2 loss at the hands of Switzerland on Thursday (April 17), while the Czech Republic began play on Friday (April 18), downing Denmark, 9-2. In the U.S. loss, Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove, Minn.) and Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) lit the lamp, while Alex Nedeljkovic (Parma, Ohio) made 16 saves on 19 shots.

"The team has been really great in helping me adjust, especially playing with guys like (Auston) Matthews and (Shane) Gersich," said U18 forward Kyle Connor, who was named Team USA's best player against Switzerland. "We know what we have to do versus the Czech Republic. We have to play our game and get in front of the net."

Last year, the Czech Republic finished seventh at the U18 World Championship in Sochi, Russia. Through preliminary play, the Czech Republic concluded action with a 1-0-0-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record, scoring 15 goals and allowing 13. The Czechs then fell in the quarterfinal round, 6-0, to the eventual gold-medal winning Canadian squad.

In other games today at the U18 World Championship, Canada takes on Germany and Russia squares off with Sweden in Imatra, while Finland and Switzerland do battle following the U.S. matchup with the Czechs.

Match-Up History

Team USA carries a 7-0-1-1-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T) all-time record versus the Czech Republic. This will be the 11th meeting between the two countries in the IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship. The U.S. has outscored the Czechs, 40-19, in the series.

The Czech Republic's lone victory over Team USA came on April 20, 2002, a 1-0 defeat in Piestany, Slovakia. The game was the second of the playoff round and the only loss the U.S. suffered en route to the gold medal.

The U.S. most recently won against the Czechs in preliminary round play at the 2013 U18 World Championship in Sochi, Russia. Rallying from an early two-goal deficit and led in part by two markers off the stick of Tyler Motte (St. Clair, Mich.), Team USA held on for a 4-3 win on April 20, 2013. Will Butcher (Sun Prairie, Wis./0-2) and J.T. Compher (Northbrook, Ill./1-1) contributed two points, while Thatcher Demko (San Diego, Calif.) made 18 saves in the victory.

News and Notes

  • Team USA has lost the first game in the IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship five times. Of the five, the U.S. has gone on to win medals three times (2007, 2010, 2013).
  • In 2007, the Russians handed Team USA defeat on day one of action (April 12, 2007). Despite also falling to Canada in overtime in the preliminary round, the U.S. went on to claim a silver medal.
  • In 2010, the U.S. was bested by Sweden, 4-2, in its first matchup on April 13, 2010. Team USA would prevail in the rematch, defeating Sweden for the gold medal ten days later.
  • In 2013, the Americans were clipped by host-country Russia, 4-3, in Sochi on April 18, 2013. Team USA would also be nipped by Finland, 2-1, in the prelims before working towards an eventual silver medal.
  • Alex Nedeljkovic, who skates for the Plymouth Whalers, was recently pegged as the 2013-14 recipient of the OHL’s Goaltender of the Year award.
  • The Czech Republic roster features 11 players recently named on NHL Central Scouting's list of top draft-eligible players for 2014. Jakub Vrana (4th), David Pastrnak (5th), Dominik Masin (10th), Filip Pyrochta (38th), Lukas Vopelka (43rd), Tomas Havlin (117th), Radek Vesely (126th) and Alex Rasner (127th) were tabbed along on the European skaters side, while Vitek Vanecek (8th) and Karel Vejmelka (14th) ranked among the best European goalie prospects. Vaclav Karabacek, who plays for the Gatineau Olympiques, was ranked 41 on the North American skaters list.
  • The average height of Team Czech Republic is 6-0, while the average weight is 181 pounds.
  • Follow @USAHockeyScores on Twitter for live scoring updates during the tournament. Scores will be designated with the #U18Worlds tag.
  • For additional coverage, visit the NTDP Facebook page and follow @USANTDP on Twitter.

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