Bronze blowout

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JANUARY 5: USA poses for a team photo at centre ice following their victory against the Czech Republic in the bronze medal game of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

Frederic leads attack with four goals on Czechs

Trent Frederic's four goals led the U.S. to a 9-3 bronze medal victory over the Czechs on Friday. It's the third straight U.S. World Junior medal.

"You want to sit in your room and feel sad, but you’ve still got another game," said Frederic. "You still want to win a medal and that’s what we did."

Kieffer Bellows scored twice and added an assist, and captain Joey Anderson had a goal and an assist. Ryan Poehling and Patrick Harper chipped in singles.

Bellows, who leads the World Juniors in goals, set a new U.S. single-tournament record (nine), surpassing Jeremy Roenick’s mark (eight in Anchorage, Alaska in 1989). The all-time record belongs to Sweden's Markus Naslund (13 goals, 1993).

"That’s something that’ll go down in history," said Poehling. "To beat someone so elite, with that name, Jeremy Roenick, he should be proud of himself. That’s a pretty special moment for him."

The U.S. won bronze in 2016 and gold in 2017. This doesn't make up for not repeating, but it's still a worthy success on home ice under head coach Bob Motzko.

It's the sixth American bronze medal of all time. The previous ones were 1986, 1992, 2007, 2011, and 2016. Year after year, USA Hockey remains a rising force.

"These medals are very hard to get in this tournament," said Motzko. "USA Hockey's in a great spot. They really are."

U.S. goalie Jake Oettinger started for the first time since the 4-3 outdoor shootout win over Canada on 29 December. In the 4-2 semi-final loss to Sweden, he relieved Joseph Woll, who did not dress for the bronze game. Third-stringer Jeremy Swayman got his opportunity.

Radovan Pavlik had a goal and an assist for the Czechs, and Martin Kaut and Daniel Kurovsky also scored. Petr Kodytek had two assists.

Before the game, two questions stood out. Would the Americans, hailing from a country with a gold-or-bust mentality, be invested in the outcome? And could the Czechs tighten up enough defensively and get enough production to compete?

The answers were “Absolutely” and “Nope.”

It was a disappointment for the Czech Republic, whose U20 program has been rebuilding for years. After losing 7-2 to Canada in the semi-finals, top sniper Filip Zadina looked forward to the bronze showdown: “We will die on the ice.” But that occurred differently than he intended.

"We wanted to be better but we didn't," said Zadina. "In the semi-final and tonight, there's a reason we lost. At least we scored three goals in the third, but they got a goal on our power play in the first, which wasn't good. Fourth is good for the Czech Republic now, but we wanted to bring home a medal."

The Czechs allowed 16 goals in their last two games and that's no way to succeed.

The last time the Czechs medaled was a 3-2 overtime win over the U.S. for bronze at the 2005 World Juniors in Grand Forks, North Dakota. (Petr Vrana notched the winner at 2:38.) Nonetheless, fourth is the best Czech finish since ‘05, and that means something. With upset wins over Russia and Finland in Buffalo, they have much to be proud of.

It took the Czechs more than 12 minutes to register their first shot on goal, but then they picked up their tempo as first-period shots favored the U.S. 12-8.

With just four seconds left in the first, Frederic opened the scoring shorthanded. He capitalized on Kaut’s turnover at the U.S. blue line and got a breakaway, sliding the puck past Czech starter Josef Korenar for his second goal of the tournament.

"Any time you put the puck in the net, it’s obviously a good time," said Frederic. "It’s fun. We were having fun out there. It was a tough loss yesterday. We came back and I thought we responded well."

The Americans started the second period with another shorthanded goal. Anderson grabbed the puck behind the net on the forecheck and centered it to Poehling, who made it 2-0 at 0:09.

"We were on the PK and we drew that play up before," said Poehling. "Scotty [Perunovich], the D-man, just suggested it and we ended up doing it. It somehow worked out. We were all laughing about it. It was a good play all around. I was surprised I was so open in front."

It was ironic since America’s hopes of repeating as champion for the second straight year were sunk by two Swedish shorthanded goals in the 4-2 semi-final loss.

At 4:18, Anderson gave the U,S. a three-goal lead when Tkachuk’s centering pass bounced in off his skate. The Czechs yanked Korenar in favor of Jakub Skarek, but it was too late to make a difference.

"Getting the lead was huge for us, and then the big second period, we just kept running with it," said Anderson.

Things went from bad to worse for coach Filip Pesan’s crew. Just 1:34 later, Frederic finished off a nice rush on the backhand to put the Americans up 4-0. After Libor Hajek hauled Bellows down on a breakaway at 7:23, the U.S. assistant captain was awarded a penalty shot, and he went high stick side for a 5-0 lead.

Frederic completed his hat trick at 12:55 with a snipe from the faceoff circle, making it 6-0. However, nobody bothered to throw any hats. With 59 seconds left in the middle frame, Bellows took a drop pass from Josh Norris and zipped home his second of the evening.

"Our players wanted to leave here on a very positive note," said Motzko. "We’re very proud of the effort they put in tonight."

In the third period, the Czechs spoiled Oettinger's shutout bid with two quick goals, one from Chytil on the power play at 0:43 and another from Pavlik through the five-hole 28 seconds later. But no miracle comeback was in the works.

Frederic got his fourth on a Bellows power-play set-up at 5:41. Just over two minutes later, Kurovsky capitailzed on sloppy U.S. play to make it 8-3. Swayman got his first appearance in net with under four minutes left, and Harper rounded out the scoring at 9-3 with 2:50 remaining.

The biggest blowout in bronze-medal history remains Sweden's 11-4 win over Switzerland in Saskatoon in 2010.

"This win was huge," said Bellows. "It sets the stage for next year, for those guys who are returning. It shows how hard this tournament can be. There are so many elite players around the world, and elite teams. It's a huge honor to get a bronze medal. It's not the one we wanted but it's great for USA Hockey."