The Americans were truly the better team during the bronze medal game on Sunday, defeating the hometown Czech Republic 3-0 to take third place at the World Championships.
A big story heading into the game revolved around Jaromír Jágr. After coming out of national team retirement at the age of 43, there has been the expectation that the hometown tournament in Prague would be the last the hockey superstar would participate in. Having played in 152 international contests in the past, Jagr’s tournament was filled with excitement, scoring nine points in the first nine games to sit just one point behind Jakub Voracek for first in team scoring.
The Czechs had a few scoring chances right off the bat, but it would be the Americans that would find the back of the net first. USA is filled with unlikely scoring heroes, so it wasn’t totally strange to think that the the likes of Brock Nelson and Nick Bonino have been two of the better players in this tournament. Nelson had two great chances with about 7:20 off the clock, sending a couple of decent shots towards Ondrej Pavelec, who deflected them both away. The second save, however, saw the puck land right on the blade of Bonino, who swatted it in for the 1-0 goal early on in the contest.
With two minutes left, the Americans would take a 2-0 lead. Jack Eichel has been very impressive all tournament long, and after doing a nice little spin along the boards to get past a Czech defender, he sent it right to Trevor Lewis in front, who tipped it between the legs of Pavelec for the 2-0 goal heading into the intermission.
The Czechs would eventually show a bit more urgency near the second half of the middle stanza. The American defense did a good job of really preventing any major damage by opposing forwards for a good majority of the tournament, but today, they kept allowing the Czechs to exploit the middle. In a five minute span, the team managed to grab four identical chances, sending passes through the middle to a player in front, who would redirect the shot in close. Fortunately for the Americans, Connor Hellebuyck, one of the best goaltenders in the tournament, would come up big on all of them, proving to people why the team made the right choice going with him for the whole tournament.
With 50 seconds remaining in the period, the Americans would take the 3-0 lead. After a long, unsuccessful four minute power-play for the Czechs, the Americans would capitalize on their own when Charlie Coyle fired one home from the high slot after a nice pass by Bonino from just above the goal line. The goal would signal the end of the Czechs, who would drop the game 3-0 to give the young Americans the bronze medal.
With the bronze, USA was able to grab their second third place finish in the past three tournaments. Prior to that, the Americans last won the bronze back in 2004, when the tournament last held in Prague. The Americans haven’t won a gold at the World Championships since back in 1960, finishing with 10 points in the medal round to overcome the Canadians. The medal gives them seven bronze all-time, giving them 18 in the history of the tournament.
Yesterday, following their 4-0 loss to the Russians in the semi-finals, it was announced that Trevor Lewis, Connor Hellebuyck and Seth Jones were named the top three players on the roster. For Hellebuyck, the Winnipeg Jets prospect will have a chance at grabbing the top goaltender award later in the day, putting on an incredible performance throughout to give the Americans a chance all tournament long.
For the Czechs, Pavelec, Jagr and Voracek were named the top three players for their country. With them failing grab a medal, Canada will now move into sole possession of first place in all-time World Championships medals, with Canada’s eventual 47th medal from the gold medal game giving them one more than Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic.
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