BRECLAV, Czech Republic -- Four different U.S. players scored goals and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (Parma, Ohio) made 23 saves to help the U.S. Under-18 Select Team defeat the Czech Republic, 5-3, in the semifinals of the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament today.
"The guys really dug down deep to get the win," head coach Bob Corkum said. "It was really hot and humid in the arena, but they battled through everything and got the job done when it mattered. Now it's important for them to get rest and fluids with the quick turnaround, and then we'll get ready for tomorrow."
After an early first-period goal gave the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead, Jake Wahlin (St. Paul, Minn.) took a drop pass from Cody Milan (White Lake, Mich.) and placed a shot between Czech goaltender Vic Vanecek and the post to knot the score at 9:49. Then, eight minutes later, Team USA took the lead when Nick Schmaltz (Verona, Wis.) scored on a shot through traffic just after a power play ended to give the U.S. a 2-1 edge at intermission.
The Czech Republic responded with a goal early in the middle frame, but Schmaltz helped the U.S. regain a one-goal advantage two minutes later. As the Czech Republic tried to clear its own zone, Schmaltz intercepted a pass and beat Vanecek for his second goal of the contest.
Ryan Wagner (Park Ridge, Ill.) broke a 3-3 midway through the third period when he got behind the Czech Republic defense and tallied the game-winning goal. Milan added an empty-netter to cap the scoring.
The U.S. will play Canada in tomorrow's championship game at 11:00 a.m. ET in Piestany, Slovakia. It marks the ninth time in Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament history that the U.S. has played for the championship, and is the first appearance for the United States in the title game since 2010.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)