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U.S. tops Czechs, ready for Canada in Olympic semifinal

SOCHI, Russia — This is what the United States wanted: another crack at Canada, a chance to avenge an overtime loss in the 2010 men's hockey final and a chance to make this journey and story its own.

The United States continued its strong offensive showing with a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals Wednesday, setting up a semifinal meeting Friday with Canada, which held off Latvia 2-1.

The Americans have barged through the tournament by averaging nearly five goals a contest and have improved with each game.

"I think we were destined and on a crash course for each other," said Blues center David Backes, who had a goal and an assist, of Canada. "It happens to be in the semifinals instead of the finals. … I think both teams will be very excited to play each other and will need no motivation."

When U.S. coach Dan Bylsma of the Penguins was asked to look ahead to the matchup, he took a deep breath and paused for several seconds to gather his thoughts.

"We knew we were going to have some big games prior to this point in time, but you were looking forward to the possibility of this rematch," he said.

The Czechs had to play for a second straight day because they needed to beat Slovakia in the qualification round just to reach the quarterfinals. The rested Americans were ready to roll after two days off.

The United States seemed to take advantage of having fresh legs, beating the Czech Republic to loose pucks all game long.

"They had more energy," said Czech goalie Ondrej Pavelec of the Jets, who was pulled after the Wild's Zach Parise scored the Americans' fourth goal midway through the second period for a 4-1 lead. "It's not an excuse. It's just the way it is."

Backes — who calls his line with the Kings' Dustin Brown and the Rangers' Ryan Callahan the Meat Line: "I'm the beef, (Brown is) the pork and (Callahan is) the chicken" — said the United States' scoring shouldn't be a shock.

"There's a lot of talented guys on this team, and I'm on it, too," he said. "It seems to be a great balance, and we've got guys willing to do the dirty work."

Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas played 16:41 for the Czechs, didn't have a shot and was minus-1. Tampa Bay forward Ondrej Palat didn't play.

U.S. tops Czechs, ready for Canada in Olympic semifinal 02/19/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014 11:09pm]
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