The United States, with Rangers Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh once again playing major roles, advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 Winter Olympics Wednesday with a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic. Next up for Team USA is Canada in a rematch of the 2010 Gold Medal Game.
Dan Bylsma, head coach for the U.S., formed a hard-hitting line consisting of Callahan, David Backes, and Dustin Brown which he matched all game long against the Czech's top offensive line featuring former Rangers captain Jaromir Jagr. Not only did Callahan's unit keep Jagr's line off the scoresheet, the three United States forwards contributed a pair of goals in the convincing win.
Though Callahan did not record a point on either goal scored by Brown and Backes, his hard work and willingness to create traffic in front of the Czech's net played a big role in both goals. Brown made it 2-1 at 14:38 of the first period in large part because he was so wide open at the bottom of the left circle with Callahan occupying the Czech defender's attention by the blue paint. Backes zipped a pass to Brown, the defender was late covering, and Brown scored the goal.
Callahan, who was both physical and defensively-sound all game long, played 14 minutes and 57 seconds, recorded one shot on goal and finished a +1.
McDonagh logged 19:39 worth of ice time, second most on the team behind defense partner Ryan Suter. He rebounded from a bad break early in the game on the Czech Republic's first goal to finish with an assist, one shot on goal, and a +1 plus/minus rating, along with another solid defensive performance.
With Team USA leading 1-0 on an early James Van Riemsdyk goal just 1:39 into play, the Czechs tied it up at 4:31 when McDonagh's clearing attempt during a goalmouth scramble hit Suter's skate and caromed back into the U.S. net. The goal was credited to Ales Hemsky, his first of two in the game.
McDonagh and his teammates rebounded nicely, finishing the first period up 3-1 after Backes scored with 1.8 seconds remaining. McDonagh started the scoring play and earned the secondary assist on the goal by carrying the puck in the offensive zone while shielding it with his body from the Czech forward who was marking him. McDonagh then dropped a pass to Suter, who fired a shot off the back boards with the puck coming right to Backes, who slipped his last-second shot into the cage for a truly backbreaking goal.
The United States carried a 4-1 advantage into the third before putting the finishing touches on the victory to secure the much-anticipated rematch against a Canadian squad that eaked out a 2-1 win over Latvia despite a barrage of 57 shots on goal Wednesday.
Rangers center Derek Stepan, who had made his Olympic debut Sunday in Team USA's win over Slovenia, did not dress for the United States on Wednesday.