U.S. to Play for Gold

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The United States and Czechia met in the semi-finals for the second year in a row, the Czechs looking for a history-making upset and the Americans hoping to book a ticket to their 22nd consecutive trip to the Women’s World Championship gold medal game. The U.S. would end up the successful team, with two goal performances from Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel and Tessa Janecke helping them to a convincing 9-1 win.

Somewhat similar to their preliminary round game (which had a closer score of 6-2), play was fairly even throughout the first period, with the United States running away with the score in the second and third.

“It’s a learning opportunity, and that’s what we’ve said through the whole event, so putting it into perspective really does matter,” said Czechia head coach Carla MacLeod. “We competed, but certainly the U.S. came out on a mission. They’re one of the best in the world. It’s our second time playing in the semi-final. Ever. You can’t lose sight of where we are in our growth process and where we’re getting to. Today makes us better, makes us hungry. It’s part of the process, so I though it was a great game.”

Czechia’s Katerina Mrazova was called for interference just over 10 minutes in, pitting the tournament’s top penalty kill against the top power play. Until this moment, no one had been able to crack Czechia’s perfect penalty kill, but Cayla Barnes picked up a rebound and passed across the slot to Amanda Kessel for a one-timer, giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

Barnes helped set up the Americans’ second goal as well, feeding the puck to captain Hilary Knight, who sent it backhand into the net over Blanka Skodova.

The U.S. power play proved deadly, increasing the lead for Team USA to 3-0 just over a minute later. Andrea Trnkova was in the box for only seven seconds when Knight scored her second of the game, tipping in a shot from Caroline Harvey (and guess who else assisted on the goal? Barnes, for her third point of the game).

“It’s what she [Knight] does best,” said Barnes. “She’s an incredible leader, and incredible hockey player, and when the team needs one like that, she puts in on her back. I would follow her anywhere.”

Harvey jumped up into the play for the Americans’ fourth goal of the game, dragging Skodova out of her crease and passing the puck out in front for Abbey Murphy. Czechia changed goaltenders after this, with Katerina Zechovska taking to the ice for the first time at a Women’s World Championship.

“It was good for us to get a lot of goals tonight,” said Alex Carpenter. “We learned last time how strong a team they are. They’re physical, they play well, they look for odd-man rushes. We used that last game to help find our game today, and it paid off.”

While the Americans had most of the momentum, the Czechs found a way to score. Adela Sapovalivova crossed the blue line with speed, beating Aerin Frankel blocker side. The Czechs tried to close the gap further with a near shorthanded breakaway opportunity for Vendula Pribylova, but a glove save by Frankel kept the score at 4-1.

“That was a great snipe,” Czechia captain Alena Mills said of Sapovalivova’s goal. “I’m really happy that she’s playing the way she is, she’s a great kid. She’s a bubbly kid, great to have on our team, and I think she’s able to build on that confidence and also gets better every tournament. That’s what we want to see, that’s how we’re going to get this team to those shinier medals. It’s kids like her that are going to help us. Same goes for [Tereza Pistekova and Tereza Plosova], I think they’ve done great the whole tournament too. They might not have as much ice time, but every time they’re out there, they’re making things happen. Those young kids are really helping us.”

The U.S. scored twice more before the second intermission to take a 6-1 lead. Abby Roque fired the puck top shelf on the power play, and in the dying minutes of the period, Kessel batted a rebound out of the air and past Zechovska.

Women’s Worlds rookie Tessa Janecke added two more to the scoreboard in the third period. Zechovska made a nice save on Taylor Heise, but Janecke crashed the net to pot the loose puck. Her second goal came 15 seconds in to another U.S. power play.

“I think we’re going to need every piece of the puzzle to win tomorrow so I think it’s amazing that everyone’s getting on the scoresheet and everyone’s contributing in their own way,” said Barnes. “We just trust each other, we stuck to our game plan, made hockey plays. We got a couple of really good bounces as well, so I think that contributed to our success.”

Harvey scored the final goal of the game to add to her three assists. Her and Hannah Bilka (who assisted on Janecke’s first goal) are now on a six game scoring streak, and are the only U.S. players to have collected at least one point in every game in Brampton.

“We’re on the hunt for a gold medal,” said Barnes. “It’s been a little bit, so we definitely are hungry for that and we want to get that back so if it [USA vs Canada], it’s the greatest rivalry. It’s going to be a hard back and forth game, you expect that, so we’re really looking forward to the game tomorrow.”

As for Czechia, their sights are set on defending their bronze medal from the 2022 Women’s World Championship.

“I think it’s going to be harder to defend the bronze medal or to win it again because last year we surprised everybody,” said Mills. “I think it’s going to be a bit of a different challenge, a bit of a different battle, but nothing changes. We came here for a medal and if it’s bronze, bronze still counts.”

Source : IIHF