2021 World Para Ice Hockey Championship: USA 4, Czech Republic 0: Shot, Save, Shot, Save.

Team U.S.A. records a victory despite a strong performance by the Czech goalie Kudela.

After a disappointing and unusual loss, Team U.S.A. looked to bounce back with a stronger start in Game 2 against Team Czech Republic. Czech Republic dropped their first game against Korea and was also looking for a win to build momentum in the preliminary round. Czech goalie Martin Kudela started for the hometown team, and U.S.A.’s Jen Lee parked in net for the United States.

Period One

Definitely looking for a faster and more aggressive start, Team U.S.A. immediately took the offensive charge. After peppering Czech goalie Martin Kudela, Josh Hargis was awarded a penalty shot on a CZE penalty, but Kudela impressed the crowd with a stop. The offensive onslaught continued for Team U.S.A. but CZE’s players swarmed the blue jerseys to take some of the pressure off Kudela.

A second opportunity for U.S.A. came at 10:45 in the period on a CZE hooking call. Jack Wallace heard the stomach sinking “sound of failure” as the puck hit the top bar on a bullet from the shot. While the shots on goal increased, the penalty expired with no score, mostly thanks to staunch goaltending by Kudela.

The CZE team’s commitment to take a penalty before giving up a goal led to another Team U.S.A. power play after Captain Josh Pauls sent an overly pesky CZE player to the sin bin for a hold. The next two minutes were a near replay of the previous power play—shots aplenty but thwarted by Kudela.

With less than two minutes to go, CZE forward Krupicka took another penalty leaving Team U.S.A. to finish the period on the man advantage. Immediately U.S.A. went on the offensive, but the force field around the goal remained intact. Jack Wallace, in what may have been a moment of frustration, committed a penalty, putting the teams four on four. Period one ended after a flurry of opportunity but no score on the board.

Second Period

The second period started off giving CZE one of the only advantages they’ve had thus far as Josh Misiewicz headed to the penalty box for interference. The U.S.A. penalty kill went to work. Much of CZE’s two minutes was spent back in the defensive zone, and teams returned to five a side with no damage done.

Once the penalty ended, play continued much as it had in the first period—U.S.A. applying offensive pressure and CZE hanging on defensively. The stalemate couldn’t continue indefinitely, and finally Jack Wallace sniped the puck past Kudela to break the seal and put U.S.A. up 1-0 halfway through the second period.

How each team responded to the first score would decide the outcome of the game, and known sniper Brody Roybal capitalized on the momentum for Team U.S.A. with a beautiful right-hand goal, putting the U.S. team up 2-0.

A tense moment occurred in the second period as CZE forward Sedlacek took a hit to his right hand and play halted while he was tended to. As play resumed, the U.S. team went back to the business of offensive pressure. CZE’s Kudela did a solid job of mentally regrouping after the two goals and continued to stifle the shots.

CZE’s Wagner committed a holding penalty and headed to the sin bin to think about what he’d done while Team U.S.A. set up their power play. The dynmaic duo of Farmer and Roybal coordinated for a replay-worthy goal, but Kudela snatched the puck out of the air, keeping the game 2-0 and killing the two-minute holding penalty.

The crowd roared with hope as CZE looked like it might get some offensive chances, but Team U.S.A.’s speed quickly squashed any hope of cutting the lead in half. An unusual mishandled puck by Kudela led to a Declan Farmer flash goal right at the buzzer. After review, the goal came after time expired—period two ended with U.S.A. up 2-0.

Period Three

More U.S.A. offense. More Kudela defense. Shot. Save. Shot. Save.

CZE cleared the puck from the zone, but once Team U.S.A. regained possession and moved the puck up the ice, Jack Wallace skated through the defense and sank his second goal of the game over Kudela. U.S.A. up 3-0.

Wallace had a great chance for a hat trick on a pass from Joseph Woodke but shot just wide of the net. The ice opened up briefly for CZE, but there was only one real threat on a shot easily blocked by Jen Lee. A missed opportunity for U.S.A. flashed past on a slot pass gone wild with less than three minutes to go in the game.

Team U.S.A. surprised everyone—including a dialed-in Kudela—as Christopher Douglas lofted a long shot off of the faceoff win for a fourth goal in the final minutes of the game. U.S.A. kept the pressure on for the remained of the game, and sealed the win 4-0.

Team U.S.A. plays their next game against Korea (1-1) on Tuesday at 1:30 PM CST. The game will be broadcast live on the Olympic channel and on World Para Ice Hockey Facebook page.

Three Things:

  1. Keep doing what you’re doing — With goalie Kudela snagging every shot and making them unable to convert on penalties, Team U.S.A. could have gotten frustrated with so much action and no payoff. Instead, they kept doing the right things and trusted the process.
  2. Shot selection — While Team U.S.A. played in clear control of this game from start to stop, they will need the offensive pressure to convert into goals going forward. Whether it is looking for the pass, lifting the puck, or being ready for any rebounds, 51 shots on goal must convert to more than 4 goals. The score and the shots on goal need to be closer as they move through the tournament.
  3. Give it up for the Czech team and goalie Martin Kudela. The offensive pressure they faced from U.S.A. was relentless, but the team didn’t lose their composure. This is an up-and-coming program that made a solid statement despite the loss today.