Preview: Czech Republic vs. USA
Ladislav Smid and the Czechs look to move onto the semi-finals
CZECH REPUBLIC vs. UNITED STATES
When: Wednesday, Noon ET (USA, TSN2)
Where: Shayba Arena
What's at stake: A trip to the semifinals and a chance to play for a medal. The United States, which finished second in the preliminary round with two regulation wins and a shootout victory, would like to continue its quest to go one step further than it did four years ago in Vancouver, when it lost to Canada in overtime in the gold-medal game. The Czech Republic will try to continue its strong results in Olympics played outside of North America; they won gold in 1998 in Japan and bronze in 2006 in Italy.
Czech Republic: After jumping to a 4-0 lead in their qualification playoff game Tuesday against Slovakia, the Czechs had to survive a furious late rally to hold on for a 5-3 victory.
Roman Cervenka scored twice and Ales Hemsky and David Krejci had goals, but the Czechs weren't able to put the game away until Tomas Plekanec's empty-net goal in the game's final minute.
While happy with the outcome, the Czechs know they need to raise their game if they want to continue on in the tournament.
"We were just very, very static," Hemsky told the IIHF website. "Suddenly they [Slovakia] came to life and scored some goals. All of a sudden the game changed. We can't afford to be static like that. We have to play out the game."
United States: After three preliminary-round games, coach Dan Bylsma had one word for his team: faster.
"I would say there are opportunities that we have missed that we can play quickly, play north, push the pace up the ice," Bylsma said following the Americans' practice Tuesday. "That's something we did well at times; I just think we can be better at realizing that."
Bylsma believes that on the international-size ice, speed, especially through the middle of the ice, will be the key to his team accomplishing its golden goal.
"We have to be aware that we can still play a fast game and we can still play an aggressive game," Bylsma said. "We have maybe thought it was going to be a more patient game [on the international-size ice] and looked to play it more patiently when we can go quicker."
The players trust the system and have enjoyed pushing the pace.
"If we come with speed and we do our systems, there's going to be holes," center Ryan Kesler said. "I like getting speed coming through the neutral zone. With this team I think that's when we're at our best."
Jonathan Quick has been named the starter in goal after winning both his starts in group play.
What's next: The winner will face Canada or Latvia in the semifinals Friday.