The United States was originally hoping that they would be able to achieve back-to-back gold medals at the end of the 2018 World Junior Championships.
But Friday still turned out to be a historic evening for USA hockey.
The Americans made history winning their third-straight medal as they overpowered the Czech Republic 9-3 in the Bronze-medal game at the KeyBank Center.
“It was difficult to come off of yesterday game,” US head coach Bob Motzko said. “We had two quick goals that broke the game open for us. I’m very proud of our guys.”
It’s the first time the Americans have won three medals in a row at the World Juniors.
Both Motzko and Brady Tkachuk credited the recent success with USA Hockey’s focus on the expansion of the game to more and non-traditional hockey markets.
“Now you see guys from Florida and Arizona, it’s going to keep expanding. It’s awesome and we’re going to get better and better,” said Tkachuk, pointing out players such as Auston Matthews and teammates Quinn Hughes and Andrew Peeke who have had great success. “USA Hockey has come such a long way. For us to medal three years in a row for the first time is a huge honor.”
“It says a big deal about USA hockey. These medals are hard to get. We’re in a great place,” Motzko said. “I think at the grassroots level throughout the country we’re doing a better job. A couple of decades ago you only got players from the three ‘M’s’, (Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan). Now there are great players coming from all over.”
It was a big night for forward Keiffer Bellows who scored two goals to become the USA’s single-tournament record holder for goals scored. His 11 all-time goals in the tournament has him tied with 2018 Olympic captain Brian Gionta at the third spot in World Junior history for the US.
“I think my success came from all my great teammates,” said Bellows, the New York Islanders’ 2016 first-round selection. “The guys that I’ve been with for two years took on a leadership role. I can’t thank the coaching staff enough.”
Trent Fredric also enjoyed his final game of the tournament scoring four goals in the win.
The United States came out the far more aggressive team on both the offensive and defensive side. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead in shots on goal in the first 10 minutes. The Czech Republic responded getting the next seven, a few of which came on an extended offensive possession that they move the puck around on.
The USA scored its first short-handed goal of the tournament as Frederic picked a loose puck and beat Czech goalie Josef Korenar glove side with only 3.4 seconds left in the opening period.
The momentum carried right over into the second period for the USA.
Just nine seconds into the second period, the Americans got their second shorthanded goal as Joey Anderson found Ryan Poeling open in front of the net who quickly put it in.
After that, the US began to break both the Czech Republic and its own record books.
Tkachuk made a nice play moving around with the puck before knocking it off Anderson for the goal. Anderson was credited with the goal while Tkachuk and Mittelstadt got assists.
Hughes found Fredric for his second goal of the game to extend the lead to 4-0 with 14 minutes left in the period.
A few minutes later, Bellows converted on a penalty shot try. Fredric completed the hat trick with seven minutes left in the period.
That was followed up by Bellows’ second goal that gave him the career goal record that was previously held by Jeremy Roenick who set the mark in 1989.
The record book rewriting of a period gave the USA a 7-0 lead heading into the break.
Fredric got his fourth goal of the night on a pass from Bellows.
Martin Kaut, Radovan Pavlik, and Daniel Kurovsky all scored for the Czech Republic.
Patrick Harper capped off the party for the US with the Americans’ ninth goal with three minutes left in the game.