PRAGUE -- They left it all out on the ice – battling, clawing, diving for and in front of pucks and skillfully working to create offensive opportunities – giving themselves a chance against a team loaded with talent and experience, including a few of the sport’s biggest stars.
In the end, a team of generally young and highly determined U.S. hockey players came up short in a semifinal loss to Russia, but the 4-0 tally on the scoresheet certainly didn’t tell the real story.
“It was a great hockey game, both teams played tough, competed and worked hard, but we were not able to crack Sergei Bobrovski,“ said U.S. captain Matt Hendricks.
Despite the highly commendable effort, yet disappointing loss, Team USA will play for the bronze medal at the world championships for the second time in three years.
Had one shot, one bounce, one break gone slightly differently and in the U.S. favor, it might have been a much different hockey game.
“I thought we played really hard all night and were in the game to the end,“ said 18-year-old forward Jimmy Vesey. “Four nothing was not indicative of how the game was played. For the first two periods I thought we had the better of the chances, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.“
U.S. goaltender Connor Hellebuyck stood tall once again denying Russia’s early flurry of scoring opportunities.
Team USA had looks in the first period and raised its game to another level in the second period, outshooting Russia, 13-10. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find a way to beat Bobrovski.
“I don’t think that we were able to capitalize on our second and third opportunities and I think that was the difference in the end,“ said Jack Eichel, who contributed five shots on goal. “We had a lot of opportunities to get the first one in the second period, but Bobrovski played great.“
For forty-seven plus minutes, despite plentiful opportunities for both sides in what was an edge of your seat, thrilling hockey game, neither Russia nor the United States could find the back of the net.
“Guys were committed and you can see it, blocking shots and taking hits,“ said U.S. head coach Todd Richards. “They’re a dangerous team though. There were some moments where you hold your breath because they were real close to executing plays.
“We talked about it that the commitment had to be there against a team like this and it really was tonight,“ Richards said.
Team USA’s three college forwards – Dylan Larkin, Jimmy Vesey and Jack Eichel – had some of the best looks of the contest, especially in the opening two periods. Including University of Minnesota defenseman Mike Reilly, the four collegians accounted for 14 of the team’s 35 shots on goal.
“I’ve been saying for a couple of games now I’m going to get one, but unfortunately they didn’t fall tonight,“ Vesey said. “I had a lot of good looks and the team had a lot of good looks, but you have to give credit to their goalie.“
“Jimmy (Vesey) and Larks (Dylan Larkin) had some chances, but we were never able to get one by him,“ Eichel said.
“ Our young guys were good, I liked our whole team,“ Richards said. “Our young guys had some great opportunities to score and they made some great saves. I’m really proud of our whole group.“
“They played their guts out, they really did, and this group of young guys really deserved a better fate tonight,“ said Dale Tallon, a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team Advisory Group.
Team USA will seek its second bronze medal in three world championships, having claimed bronze in Helsinki in 2013. However, standing in the way on Sunday will be more than 17,000 boisterous fans, a pretty good scorer named Jaromir Jagr and a Czech ice hockey team wanting to end the home tournament on a high note and make its country proud.
“It’s going to be a huge game – we have a chance to take a medal home,“ Eichel said. “It means a lot to us and we’ll be ready to go.“
|April 28||Austria (ex.)||W, 4-1|
|May 1||Finland||W, 5-1|
|May 2||Norway||W, 2-1|
|May 4||Russia||W, 4-2|
|May 7||Belarus||L, 2-5|
|May 8||Denmark||W, 1-0|
|May 10||Slovenia||W, 3-1|
|May 12||Slovakia||W, 5-4 OT|
|May 17||Czech Republic
Bronze Medal Game