U.S. women survive rusty showing against Czech Republic, advance to semifinals

USA celebrates after scoring a goal. - Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

USA celebrates after scoring a goal. – Credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

The United States was dominant throughout group play of the women’s hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics, but they were anything but that in their first game of the playoffs early Friday morning. They took down the Czech Republic by a score of 4-1 to advance to the semifinals, but it was far from a stellar showing.

Many expected the U.S. to run the Czechs out of the building in their quarterfinal tilt, but the underdogs played admirably throughout the contest. The Czechs didn’t register a single shot on goal through the game’s first 20 minutes, but they did an excellent job of clogging up the center of the ice and limiting the Americans to perimeter shots.

In the second period, it was the Czechs who opened up the scoring when U.S. netminder Alex Cavallini was caught out of position and Michaela Pejzlova slid the puck into the wide-open net. It didn’t take the Americans long to respond, though. Not even a full minute later, Hilary Knight (shocker!) scored the first U.S. goal of the morning to tie it at one apiece.

The goal shifted momentum back in the Americans’ favor, but the Czechs later got their own shot of adrenaline when they earned a five-minute major power play. Dani Cameranesi forced Czech defender Tereza Radova into the boards head-first, and after she was initially called for a minor penalty, the officials reviewed the play and assessed her the major infraction. Luckily, the U.S. killed off the major power play and kept the game tied into the second intermission.

Finally the U.S. managed to earn its first lead of the game in the third period off a tally from Lee Stecklein that went off a Czech defender. Savannah Harmon, who’s been terrific throughout the tournament for the U.S., added to the lead with just over three minutes left in regulation to double her squad’s lead, and captain Kendall Coyne Schofield sealed it with an empty-netter in the game’s waning moments.

Though her team didn’t get the win, Czech netminder Klara Peslarova was the star of the game. She was outstanding throughout the contest, stopping 55 (!) of the Americans’ 58 shots fired in her direction.

The Czechs were impressive during the preliminary stage, going 2-1-1 in their first-ever appearance in the Olympics women’s hockey tournament, so its not a total shock that they managed to stay with the U.S. for so long. Still, it’s surprising that the U.S. only managed four goals against the considerably weaker Czech squad.

With this victory, the Americans are just one win away from returning to the gold medal game. Puck drop for their semifinal tilt is set for February 14.

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