It might not have been the overwhelming victory some were expecting, but it was a commanding win just the same for the United States in their opening game of the World Para Hockey Championship.
The U.S. roared out to a 3-0 in the first period, led 5-1 through two and would take a 7-1 victory over Czechia in the first game of day two at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.
While the final result was all but expected given the pedigree and skill of the Americans, to keep things fairly close much of the contest was a positive for Czechia, who dropped to 1-1 after a 3-0 win over Korea on Sunday.
“The U.S, is a very good team so we expected something like that, but we scored and that was pretty empowering for us, and we’ll try and move on from there,” said Czechia forward Filip Vesely, who scored his team’s lone goal with 5:17 to play in the second period.
“We like to learn from them, too, every fight on the ice is a learning experience for us. It was a bit of a rollercoaster against them in the defensive zone, but we’ll build from this and get ready for the next match.”
Czechia coach Jakub Novotny echoed his player’s comments, especially when it came to using every game against elite teams to help build their own game.
“Our goal wasn’t to win today, to be honest,” he said. “We knew the U.S. is a better team than us and we set little goals to make sure our tactics were there and we were doing the right things. We can learn from that, so I think the players did it well today… it was a much closer game (than past match-ups) since our players are getting used to the speed of the game, and it was actually quite fun out there today.”
Travis Dodson led the United States with a pair of goals in the first period and a hat trick overall, while Brody Roybal had a goal and an assist to go along with single markers from Declan Farmer, Noah Grove and Malik Jones. Kevin McKee picked up three assists.
For the United States, it was business as usual and an important win to get things off on the right foot.
“It was a good first game for us, it was good to get our feet wet in the tournament and get moving,” Dodson said. “I thought we played really well, we were hard to play against, but you have to give credit to Czechia, they’re growing and getting a lot better and they showed it. So it was good to get that first win.”
Jen Lee picked up the win in goal for the United States, turning aside nine shots, while Martin Kudela had 22 saves for Czechia.
The United States are back in action on Tuesday when they host Korea at 3 p.m., while Czechia has another tough draw against Team Canada at 7 p.m.
Tickets for all games are available at www.sasktix.ca.