USA shuts down Czechs

U18: Goaltender Nedeljkovic perfect in second game

19.04.2014
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Alexander Nedeljkovic and the U.S. defence were in fine form in Saturday's U18 preliminary round game against the Czech Republic. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images

LAPPEENRANTA – After falling 4-2 to Switzerland in the opening game, the United States got back on track with a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic. Goaltender Alexander Nedeljkovic earned the shutout with a 24-save effort.

Click here for scores, stats and photos

The win was a big one for the Americans, who needed points after the Czechs won handily against Denmark on Friday.

“We started off slow in the tournament, but that would be the game to lose if you’re going to lose one,” said team captain Louis Belpedio. “We played our game and it was a good team game all around. Today (Nedeljkovic) really made a name for himself.”

Auston Matthews scored the game’s first goal on a four-on-four eight minutes into the first period. Following a shaky opener where he gave up four goals to the Swiss on twenty shots, Nedeljkovic came back and played with confidence throughout the game, making some key stops including a beautiful paddle save on a Czech player with a minute and a half left in the second period to keep the score at 3-0.

“I think I was a bit more relaxed than yesterday, it was my first big IIHF game so I was a bit nervous but got it out of the way and came back strong,” said Nedeljkovic, who yesterday won the Ontario Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year award.

“Anytime you got good defencemen in front of you it makes the job easier, and when you’re not seeing any shots from the slot and just from the boards it is much easier.”
The USA stayed firmly in control of the play through the third period, giving up just five shots on net to the Czech Republic.

The only real Czech opportunity came on a breakaway chance by David Kase early in the third period, but Nedeljkovic came up big yet again and kept the scoresheet clean for the Americans.

“I think we were a little sharper today,” said head coach Danton Cole. “Defensively we were tighter but it was a heck of a game.”

USA will get a day off before playing winless Denmark, as will the Czechs who play Finland on Monday.

Canada – Germany 5-2 (1-0, 1-2, 3-0)

IMATRA – Three unanswered goals in the third period allowed Canada to put away a pesky German team 5-2 in its second game of the 2014 IIHF U18 World Championship preliminary round.

German captain Andreas Eder erased an early one-goal lead by Canada with a score midway through the second period. Just over a minute later Conner Bleackley scored his first goal of the tournament to put Canada back up by two, but only for a couple of minutes until forward Maximillian Kammerer tied the game at 2-2.

But four and a half minutes into the final frame Ryan Gropp scored the go-ahead goal, and Canada added two more in the next five minutes courtesy of forwards Travis Konecny and Jared McCann.

Canada (2W-0L) has a date with Slovakia (1W-0L) on Easter Sunday, while Germany (0W-2L) will face Russia (1OTW-0L) on Monday.

ADAM STEISS

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