BEIJING 2022: Americans caught off guard by Czechs but still advance to semis after quarterfinal win
Written by Taylor Dewling and Kristen Lipscombe
BEIJING, China - The United States Women's National Team faced a tougher battle against the Czech Republic than might have expected, as the latter made its Olympic debut at Beijing 2022. Despite the Czechs only managing six shots at the U.S. net, versus 59 shots fired at them, the underdogs managed to get a single goal on the scoresheet, although the Americans still skated away with a 4-1 win late Thursday night (on this side of the world).
So it's only fair to say, "holy moly, what a goalie," in the case of Czech netminder Klara Peslarova, who made an impressive 56 saves over three periods. “She was amazing. She was awesome,” U.S. goaltender Alex Cavallini told the Los Angeles Times following the game.
In fact, 18 of those saves occurred in the first period, with the Czechs being unable to answer any of the American shots on the net. But they didn't let any pucks past the goal line, either, so the two teams headed into first intermission with the score tied at zero, giving the Czechs a chance to get into the game.
And that they did. The Czech Republic actually opened the scoring at 4:59 into the second period on a shot from Michaela Pejzlova. The Czech lead was short-lived, however, as American veteran Hilary Knight scored was able to even the score to make it 1-1 just 48 seconds later.
That goal not only got the U.S. on the scoreboard but also tied legendary American alumna Cammi Granato for fourth all-time in Olympic tournament goals for the United States, with 10 total.
Later in the middle frame, the U.S had to kill off a five-minute major boarding penalty that was called on Dani Cameranesi. During this five-minute powerplay, the Czechs had a
chance to take the lead, as the U.S special teams struggled once again. Nevertheless, the Americans held off the determined competition, with the second period ending with a 1-1 tie.
The Americans finally picked up the pace in the third period, dominating from puck drop to final buzzer.
At 6:49 in the third period, the U.S. took the lead on a tough break for Peslarova. As the
Americans put pressure in the attacking zone, Peslarova lost her stick and a strap on her helmet
had come undone. Unfortunately, even with Peslarova’s effort in getting a stoppage of play, the
action continued, and the puck came out to Lee Stecklein, who was able to tip the puck off
and past Peslarova.
To secure the win, U.S. defender Savannah Harmon scored on the powerplay, putting the U.S. up 3-1. Captain Kendall Coyne-Schofield finalized the quarterfinal win with an empty-net goal to end the game 4-1.
With this being the debut of the Czech Republic women’s hockey team at the Olympic Winter Games, it’s exciting to look to the future of what that country's program can bring to the world stage of women’s hockey.
"It’s an unbelievable feeling," Denisa Krzova told USA Today “This is what we dreamed of for a long time. We’ll never forget this.”
Could Olympic women’s hockey no longer be a two-team race? Now the U.S. is off to the semi-finals against Finland.