The Quest For Gold Ends For Team USA At Worlds

Czech goalie Lukas Dostal produced a game-winning performance to frustrate the high-scoring Americans in Prague. An ecstatic home crowd celebrated a 1-0 verdict thanks to Pavel Zacha’s second-period goal.

The Anaheim netminder stopped 36 shots to deny a forward line that includes the tournament’s leading scorers so far, Matt Boldy (6+8 points) and Brady Tkachuk (7+6). At the other end, Czechia solved the American penalty kill for the first time in the tournament to advance.

Dostal, 23, is playing only his second World Championship, featuring in just one game in 2022 as the Czechs took bronze. But today he produced a display that will live long in Czech hockey folklore.

Team-mate Dominik Kubalik also talked up the goalie’s performance. “He’s incredible. There’s nothing more to it,” Kubalik said. “He’s a rock on our roster and we’re so happy to have him here.”

For U.S. captain Brady Tkachuk, defeat after such a strong group stage was a bitter blow. “It sucks,” he admitted. “We came here to win gold so it’s tough to react right now.

The Czechs adjusted their starting lines compared with Tuesday’s hard-fought loss against Canada. Captain Roman Cervenka, briefly partnered by David Pastrnak and Zacha, returned to the familiar company alongside Lukas Sedlak and Ondrej Kase. The Boston pair were joined by Ondrej Palat on an all-NHL line.

Amid huge Czech expectations, the Americans made a brighter start. Unfazed by another vibrant atmosphere in front of a packed house in Prague, the USA enjoyed the better of the early stages. Defensively solid and beginning to probe on offense, there were signs that the crowd was beginning to worry a little.

It only took a quick turnover to change that. Pastrnak got clear to fire a shot through Seth Jones’ legs. Richard Lindgren made the stop, but couldn’t stop the volume from edging up once again.

And that was the story of the first period, with further breakaway chances for Martin Necas and the lively Pastrnak. The balance of play was changing, and Czechia got the first meaningful chance in the middle frame. David Tomasek’s shot was blocked and Ondrej Beranek had repeated whacks at the loose puck as Lindgren held on.

There was some U.S. respite with its first power play of the game after Pastrnak was called for high-sticking. Today, though, the top-scoring team from the group stage could not add to its 37 goals.

At the other end, the first Czech power play saw the American penalty kill breached at last. Flawless through 13 kills in preliminary round play, team USA allowed a goal just 16 seconds after captain Brady Tkachuk sat for roughing.

Dolans Wiffleball 2024
Dolans Wiffleball 2024

Zacha was the scorer, although he knew little about it: David Spacek’s center point shot took a deflection off Brock Nelson’s stick and crashed into Zacha’s chest before dribbling over the line. As the crowd had Prague Arena rocking, Zacha’s adrenaline rush overrode any sting from the crunch of rubber on ribs.

Captain Cervenka had the secondary assist on that play and almost added a second goal. Kase produced a spin on the boards to trigger an odd-man rush. He fed Cervenka for a shot from the circle, only for the puck to ding the crossbar.

But as the Czechs ran into penalties, Team USA began to create more chances. Lukas Dostal pulled off a big save late in the stanza to deny the ever-threatening Tkachuk shortly before the second intermission.

During that incident, Jan Rutta took a hooking minor and the U.S. power play piled up the pressure at the start of the third. Boldy and Tkachuk, scoring leaders in the tournament so far, had good looks but Dostal held on.

That set the tone for a final frame that often felt like a defense vs offense drill. The Americans knew that time was ticking down on their medal hopes. Much of the play was in front of Dostal’s net, but he was well protected by a hard-working home rearguard. Sitting deep.

The Czechs eliminated any risk of a goal on the rush and challenged the opposition to produce an incisive combination or find some dominance on the forecheck. In return, although Czech chances were rare, an attacking face-off almost presented Palat with the 2-0 marker.

Gradually, the pressure began to put cracks into the Czech D. Dostal found himself tested more seriously than before, with Michael Essiymont and Luke Kunin.

Into the last five minutes, Trevor Zegras thought he had forced a tying goal. He squeezed a shot into the net with Dostal prone after a collision with Joel Farrabee. However, the whistle had gone long before the puck crossed the line and Farrabee’s claims he was pushed onto the paint made no impression on the officials.

The Americans played the closing moments with an empty net, Kubalik fired against the post from long range, and the hooter brought jubilant scenes as Dostal was swamped by his teammates.

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.