2003 IIHF World Junior Championship

Czech Rep. 3
Quarter Finals
Thursday, January 2, 2003
Halifax, NS

USA Beats Czechs 4-3, Faces Canada Friday

The United States grabbed an early lead and held on against the Czech Republic to advance through to the semi-finals of the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship in Halifax. The 4-3 victory sets up a highly anticipated showdown against Canada on Friday night for the right to go on to the gold medal game.

“Our team battled hard tonight,” said goaltender Robert Goepfert, who stopped 22 of 25 Czech shots for the victory. “We didn’t have our best game but we toughed it out and we ended up coming out with the victory.”

American Head Coach Lou Vairo echoed these sentiments after the game. “The Czech team played very well today, but they just couldn’t score. Our goaltender was outstanding. After we got a 2-0 lead he stopped numerous scoring chances by the Czechs that ultimately led to our victory.”

Czech Assistant Coach Jiri Kalous said that he was happy with his team’s performance, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. “I think that we played well tonight. We created lots of scoring opportunities, but we just could not score on the United States goalkeeper.”

The United States raced out to an early lead against the Czechs. Near the halfway point of the period, a long pass from Matt Jones sent Dwight Helminen in on a partial break. Helminen fought off a defender while driving to the net, where he used one hand to lift the puck over Czech goaltender Martin Falter on the short-side. Just thirty seconds later, the Americans gained the Czech zone and fired a flurry of shots at the net, eventually scoring as Zach Parise wired a shot between the legs of Falter to go up 2-0.

After outshooting the Czechs 8-3 in the first period, the Americans faced a barrage in the second, as the Czechs carried the play and outshot the USA by a 13-5 margin. This increased pressure began to pay dividends, as the Czechs sliced the American lead in half in the opening moments of the period. A tick-tack-toe play from Jiri Hudler to Jakub Klepis to Milan Michalek ended up in the back of the net when Michalek shelved the puck high over a sprawled Goepfert.

The U.S. re-established their stranglehold on the game minutes later, scoring a pair of goals, including a deflection goal that marked the end of the night for Czech starter Martin Falter, who was lifted in favor of Lukas Mensator. Before the end of the busy second period, the Czech Republic had once again drawn to within two goals, when a point shot by Lukas Krajicek deflected off a pair of Americans on the way through to elude an upset Goepfert.

The third period featured great fast-paced action, as the Czechs pushed hard for more goals. With seven minute to go the American lead was once again reduced to one goal when a turnover behind the American net left three Czechs all alone in front, resulting in a goal to make the score 4-3 for the USA. The Czechs continued to press late, but failed to equalize the score, as the Americans held on for a narrow one-goal victory.

The loss means that for the Czech Republic, fifth place is the best they can hope to finish in this tournament. The victory for the United States set up a battle against border rival Canada for the right to advance to the finals. “It’s a dream come true,” said Goepfert of squaring off against Canada. “You dream about it while you’re in your backyard, or playing street hockey. You dream of facing off against Canada. There is a big rivalry there and there always has been. It should be exciting.”

“All Americans, from hockey fans to hockey players, have a great respect for Canada as a hockey nation,” said Coach Vairo. “If we can’t win, we always cheer for Canada. Now we get a chance to advance past them into the finals. I won’t have to say much to get the guys motivated.” As he went on Coach Vairo offered but one prediction for the Semi-Final match-up, which is scheduled for 8:10pm local time on Friday night. With tongue firmly in cheek Vairo said, “if you believe everything that has been said about Canada, I figure will lose by eight or nine goals.”

Daniel Bonner
Game Night Reporter

Box Score












Scoring/Buts :
09.42 2 - 0 EQ USA 11. PARISE, Zach (23. BROWN, Dustin)
09.09 1 - 0 EQ USA 10. HELMINEN, Dwight (3. JONES, Matt 17. KESLER, Ryan)

Penalties/Pénalités :
20.00 2 min CZE 10. TATICEK, Petr CROSS
13.07 2 min USA 5. GREENE, Matt ROUGH
10.21 2 min USA 12. OSULLIVAN, Patrick ELBOW
Scoring/Buts :
28.24 4 - 2 PP1 CZE 29. KRAJICEK, Lukas (21. KLEPIS, Jakub 15. MICHALEK, Milan)
26.44 4 - 1 EQ USA 7. SUTER, Ryan (18. HIGGINS, Christopher 17. KESLER, Ryan)
26.00 3 - 1 PP1 USA 17. KESLER, Ryan (18. HIGGINS, Christopher 19. WHITNEY, Ryan)
24.02 2 - 1 EQ CZE 15. MICHALEK, Milan (21. KLEPIS, Jakub 24. HUDLER, Jiri)

Penalties/Pénalités :
40.00 2 min USA 21. NYSTROM, Eric HOLD
37.06 2 min USA 3. JONES, Matt CROSS
31.30 2 min CZE 21. KLEPIS, Jakub INTRF
27.46 2 min USA 14. GUYER, Gino HOLD
25.49 2 min CZE 16. NOVAK, Zbynek INTRF
Scoring/Buts :
53.37 4 - 3 EQ CZE 24. HUDLER, Jiri (21. KLEPIS, Jakub)

Penalties/Pénalités :
53.50 2 min CZE 6. TURON, David INTRF
49.13 2 min CZE 10. TATICEK, Petr ELBOW
45.09 2 min CZE 6. TURON, David HI-ST

Players of the Game USA Unavailable
Joueurs du partie CZE Unavailable

Goaltenders USA 29. GOEPFERT, Robert
Gardiens de but CZE 59.11 GK out CZE 1. MENSATOR, Lukas
26.44 GK in CZE 1. MENSATOR, Lukas
26.44 GK out CZE 30. FALTER, Martin

Shots on Goal by Shots on Goal by





Shots on Goal by USA





Tirs au but par CZE





Officials Referee/Arbitre Unavailable
Officiels Linesmen/Juges des lignes Unavailable

Attendance/Assistance -,---

Czech Republic vs. USA

The medal round begins today as the Czech Republic face the United States in what will surely be a hard fought match between two teams that took a bumpy road to the second round. The Czechs had to at least tie the Swedes in their final game to advance (they won 3-1), while the Americans had to overcome a first-game loss and improve with every game.

The Czech Republic will lay their goaltending hopes in Martin Falter, whose 1.78 goals against average and 92.65% save percentage are part of the reason the team has advanced to the playoff round. His American counterpart, Robert Goepfert, currently ranks second in the tournement in GAA with a paltry 0.99, and a save percentage of 96.30%.

The key for the Czech Republic will be to take the physical game up a notch and win the battles along the boards, no easy task against a very strong U.S. team. Getting the puck to top scorer Jiri Hudler should also be a priority as his play has given opponents fits. Czech defenseman Lukas Krajicek has been a pillar on the point and will anchor an improving team defense.

The United States sports a roster led by team captain Eric Nystrom, Zach Parise and Christopher Higgins, whose steady leadership and clutch play helped shake the team out of its early tournament problems. The play of youngster Patrick O’Sullivan continues to impress, and the strong physical defensive corps, led by stay-at-home defenders Ryan Suter and the heavy hitting Mark Stuart, and offensive threat Ryan Whitney give Team USA strength at every position.

Today’s winner goes on to face Canada in the next round.

Gary Caven
Game Night Reporter

USA eliminates Czech with a 4 - 3 win

The USA hung on for a 4-3 win this afternoon over the Czechs in the first quarter-final game in Halifax today. The score was 4-2 entering the third, but the Czechs made for an exciting ending when Jiri Hudler scored at 13:37. They could not tie the game, though. The Czechs now play for fifth place and the USA move on to face Canada in an all-North American semi-final on Friday night. (full story to come)


Despite dominating play in the second period, the Czechs are no better off than they were at the first intermission, trailing the USA 4-2. The Czechs drew the score to 2-1 early in the second but the Americans scored twice more before the Czechs rallied on a power play. Twenty minutes to go for the U.S. to advance to the semi-final against Canada.


Goals by Dwight Helminen and Zack Parise have given the Americans a 2-0 lead over the Czechs in the first of two quarter-final games today. The winner will play Canada on Friday.

For more information:
André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications