SOCHI, Russia — The U.S. men’s hockey team advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic hockey tournament Wednesday with a solid 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic at Shayba Arena.
Team USA’s next opponent will be Canada, in a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game, won in overtime by Canada.
The Czechs, despite having to play a playoff qualifying game on Tuesday while the Americans enjoyed a bye into the quarterfinals, had the stronger legs early in the game.
The U.S. scored first, on a close-in shot by James van Riemsdyk at 1:39, but the Czechs pulled even at 4:31. Taking advantage of Team USA’s momentary defensive confusion in its own zone, the Czechs scored off a scramble. The goal was credited to Ales Hemsky though it went in off U.S. defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
The Czechs carried the play for several minutes but the line of Dustin Brown, David Backes and Ryan Callahan came through for the U.S. Backes, of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues, fed Brown a perfect pass and Brown, below the left circle, had an easy and successful shot on Ondrej Pavelec at 14:38.
Backes gave the U.S. some breathing room—and likely flattened the Czechs’ spirits—by scoring with 1.8 seconds left in the period. He captured a puck that had caromed off the lively end boards and deposited it behind Pavelec for a 3-1 U.S. lead.
Zach Parise increased that to 4-1 at 9:31 of the second period, again helped when the puck took a favorable carom off the boards. After that goal, the Czechs replaced Pavelec with Alexander Salak.
Phil Kessel made it 5-1 off an excellent feed from Ryan Kesler at 2:01 of the third period before Hemsky scored again, at the 13-minute mark of the third period.