Oliver Wahlstrom (Quincy, Mass./Boston College) scored twice and 10 other U.S. players registered at least one point as the U.S. National Junior Team defeated the Czech Republic, 6-2, in its second and final pre-tournament game ahead of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"As a staff, we asked our team to have a better start and scoring twice within the first five minutes certainly shows they listened," said Mike Hastings, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "We're still working our way towards a full 60 minutes of good hockey, though, and I think we're all looking forward to doing that here when the tournament gets started in Victoria."
With the win, the U.S. closes pre-tournament play with a perfect 2-0-0-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record. Team USA opens the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship next Wednesday (Dec. 26) against Slovakia. That game, along with every U.S. tournament game, will be televised live on NHL Network.
Wahlstrom opened the scoring just 40 seconds into the game when Quinn Hughes (Orlando, Fla./University of Michigan) intercepted a clearing attempt at the blue line and found Wahlstrom alone in the slot for the game’s opening goal.
Just three minutes later, Wahlstrom connected again to make it 2-0. The play started when Quinn found his brother, Jack Hughes (Orlando, Fla./U.S. National Under-18 Team) with a pass that he dished over to Wahlstrom.
Holding an 8-1 shot advantage through the midway point of the period, the U.S. nearly scored again when a scramble in front of the net saw Joel Farabee (Cicero, N.Y./Boston University) collect the loose puck at the top of the crease but his attempt was turned aside by Jakub Skarek.
With 2:34 to play in the frame, Phil Kemp (Greenwich, Conn./Yale University) put the U.S. up, 3-0, after Sasha Chmelevski (Northville, Mich./Ottawa 67's) won the faceoff back to him for a one-timer slapshot that beat Skarek.
The middle frame saw both teams generate scoring opportunities before the Czech Republic’s Jakub Lauko converted at the 9:27 mark. Just moments before the goal, U.S. net minder Kyle Keyser (Coral Springs, Fla./Oshawa Generals) made a sprawling save by sliding post-to-post and deflecting a shot over the goal with the end of his stick.
Team USA regained its three-goal lead with just over five minutes to play in the frame when Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) tallied a powerplay goal. With the U.S. on the man advantage, Ryan Poehling (Lakeville, Minn./St. Cloud State University) circled the puck down low to Jason Robertson (Northville, Mich./Niagara IceDogs) who found Norris alone at the top of the crease for a 4-1 U.S. lead.
In the final minute of play, Chmelevski converted on a breakaway to give the U.S. a 5-1 advantage entering the final frame. The end-to-end play started when Farabee received a clearing pass from Keyser and skated along the left wall, drawing a defender toward him before lifting a pass to Chmelevski alone in the slot. With plenty of time, Chmelevski pushed the puck towards the right post before cutting back across the crease and tucking it past Skarek’s right foot.
In the final frame, Czech forward Martin Necas scored with a wrist shot from the slot on the power play with 7:26 remaining to cut the U.S. lead to 5-2.
Just over four minutes later, Norris made a spinning pass to Ty Emberson (Eau Claire, Wis./University of Wisconsin) in the slot, who found the top corner for a shorthanded tally to regain Team USA's four-goal advantage and account for the 6-2 final.
Keyser finished with 19 saves for the 6-2 U.S. win.
NOTES: USA Hockey expects to name its final 23-player roster for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship by Dec. 23 ... The U.S. enters the tournament having medaled in three straight World Junior Championships for the first time in U.S. history after earning gold in 2017 and bronze in 2018 and 2016 ... John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.), assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, is serving as the general manager of the U.S. National Junior Team ... NHL Network is the official U.S. broadcaster of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Team USA will play its preliminary round games in Victoria against Group B opponents Kazakhstan, Finland, Slovakia and Sweden. Quarterfinals will be split between the Vancouver and Victoria. The semifinal and medal games will be played at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. For more information about the tournament, click here.