Trent Frederic scored four goals and Kieffer Bellows had two goals and an assist as Team USA built up a big lead and coasted in a 9-3 win over the Czech Republic in the 2018 World Juniors bronze medal game.
The US lineup featured a few small changes, most notably the starting goaltending duties falling to Jake Oettinger, and Logan Brown being a scratch once more. Kailer Yamamoto was deemed healthy after a late game stick to the knee by Sweden’s Oskar Steen. The Czechs once more turned to Josef Korenar in net as they looked to end a strong tournament with a medal around their necks.
The Americans started off strong as they tested Korenar throughout an extended visit to the Czech zone. Yet the opportunistic Czech Republic nearly took the lead on their first chance of the game. A shot trickled through Oettinger and slowly slid in next to the post, where Adam Fox calmly scooped it off the goal line and cleared the danger.
The Czechs would have to wait around 10 more minutes before getting their first official shot.
The United States only dressed 11 forwards and experimented with something new in the early going of the game, using defenders Scott Perunovich and Quinn Hughes as forwards with Brown a scratch. While it would be over 12 minutes before the Czechs got a shot on net, they made the most of it afterwards. In the 90 seconds after their first shot they hemmed the US in their own end, and peppered Oettinger with five more high dangers shots, forcing the American goalie into a scrambling save to freeze the puck.
After a Jakub Lauko hit from behind on Ryan Lindgren went uncalled, the Americans took an actual penalty of their own, with Dylan Samberg sitting for slashing. With the final minute winding down, Trent Frederic pounced on a loose puck, and turned the jets on past a Czech defender and coolly slotted the puck home for the opening goal.
Bruins prospect Trent Frederic forces the turnover & then scores shorthanded pic.twitter.com/EdxVHIjnY9— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 5, 2018
It took just nine seconds into the second period for the US to strike again, while still shorthanded. The Americans broke into the zone and Joey Anderson passed off to Montreal Canadiens prospect Ryan Poehling who made no mistake burying his first goal of the tournament for a 2-0 lead.
Team USA makes it 2-0 short-handed within seconds of puck-drop in the second period. pic.twitter.com/QBLIPV4Qa4— Janik Beichler (@JanikBeichler) January 5, 2018
The US pressure didn’t relent from there, with the top line of Brady Tkachuk, Casey Mittelstadt and Joey Anderson doing the damage once again. Tkachuk took a Mittelstadt pass, wrapped it around the net and banked it in off of an unsuspecting Anderson, chasing Korenar from the game.
The onslaught continued with draft eligible Quinn Hughes rocketing into the offensive zone as a forward, before dishing off to Frederic who finished the play with aplomb for his second of the game. Then it was the red hot Kieffer Bellows who was awarded a penalty shot, and after a nifty deke and another destroyed water bottle, Bellows had tied Jeremy Roenick for the most goals in a single tournament by an American player.
Kieffer Bellows still loves hunting H2O pic.twitter.com/KB6ZOz0D93— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 5, 2018
Clearly frustrated with the slow offensive start against Sweden, the Americans added another goal with 13 minutes gone in the second, with Frederic notching his hat trick goal, and causing two lonely hats to hit the ice.
Even a too many men on the ice penalty couldn’t get the Czech offence back into the game as the Americans spent more time testing Skarek in his own end. Then it was Kieffer Bellows once more, setting a single tournament record with his ninth goal before the end of the period.
Kieffer Bellows sets a new USA record with 9 goals in a single WJC tournament pic.twitter.com/FVcbbLVHWU— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 5, 2018
A tussle between Quinn Hughes and Jakub Lauko would be the biggest bit of excitement for the end of the period, with Hughes collecting a double minor for roughing when all was said and done.
Josef Korenar started the third period back between the pipes for the Czech Republic, and with the power play still active from the previous period’s shenanigans they went back to work. Martin Kaut cashed in on a rebound shot in front, and less than two minutes later Radovan Pavlik beat Oettinger clean for a second goal in less than three minutes for the Czechs.
The push continued for the underdogs from Europe even after a strong American shift in the offensive zone. Marek Zachar blew by Adam Fox and cut in front of Oettinger and got the shot away. As the puck fluttered in the air towards the goal line, Fox saved the day, swatting the puck into the corner and out of danger. A Martin Kaut holding penalty would turn the tide back over to the United States however, with Frederic cashing in his fourth goal of the game.
The Czechs drew another one back after making it an 8-3 game, this time Daniel Kurovsky got the tally, drawing some bit of joy from the few Czech fans in attendance.
Patrick Harper would add a goal for the United States, who put third goaltender Jeremy Swayman into the game with under four minutes left for his first game action.