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US survives scare from Czech Republic, advances to Olympic women's semifinal

The defending gold medalists from the United States were briefly trailing in the second period of their quarterfinal with the Czech Republic.

BEIJING, China — Lee Stecklein scored on a shot from the right point 6:49 into the third period, and the defending champion United States avoided an early exit by rallying to defeat the Czech Republic 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the Beijing Olympics on Friday.

The Americans survived what would have been a major upset in a game where their offense continued having difficulty finishing against a defensively sound Czech opponent making its Olympic debut.

The U.S., whose only losses in six previous Olympics have been against Canada (six times) and Sweden (once), managed just four goals on 59 shots and was required to overcome a 1-0 deficit.

Hilary Knight had a goal and assist, and Savannah Harmon and Kendall Coyne Schofield, with an empty-netter, also scored for the Americans. Alex Cavallini stopped five shots.

Credit: AP
United States goalkeeper Alex Cavallini (33) blocks a shot during a women's quarterfinal hockey game against the Czech Republic at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Czech goalie Klara Peslarova was the star of the game, stopping 55 shots, including the first 22 she faced. Michaela Pejzlova scored for the Czech Republic but also had Stecklein’s go-ahead goal deflect in off her stick.

With the game tied at 1, Stecklein scored as the U.S. buzzed around the Czech zone and after Peslarova lost her stick. Set up at the point, Stecklein's low shot deflected in off Pejzlova’s stick in the slot and dribbled in through Peslarova’s legs.

With the Americans celebrating, the Czech goalie flipped off her cage in disgust and left the net. Harmon sealed the win by scoring with 3:09 left.

The Czechs became the sixth women’s hockey team to be held without a shot in a period in the Olympics, after the U.S. had an 18-0 edge through 20 minutes, but still managed to open the scoring.

It came on their second shot on net 4:59 into the second period when Denisa Krizova dug the puck out at the left boards and fed Tereza Vanisova, who drove to the net. Vanisova’s pass through the middle was blocked and got to the net where Cavallini had to sweep it away.

U.S. forward Jesse Compher whiffed attempting to play the puck, leading to Pejzlova snapping it into the open left side.

The Americans responded to tie the game 48 seconds later. Kendall Coyne Schofield’s shot from the slot was stopped by Peslarova before Knight converted the rebound.

The goal was the 10th of Knight's Olympic career, tying her with Cammi Granato for fourth on the U.S. list. Knight also increased her career Olympic point total to 24 to move into third on the list, one ahead of Katie King.

The Czechs frustrated the U.S. offense by crowding the front of the net and keeping most chances to the outside, similar to how the Canadian and Russian teams defended against the Americans in the preliminary round.

The U.S led the tournament through the preliminary round with 233 shots on net but ranked fourth among 10 teams in scoring efficiency with just 20 goals.

The Czech Republic had numerous shots blocked in the opening period, when they became the first women’s team since Italy at the 2006 Torino Games to fail to register a shot on net in a period at the Olympics. Italy was held without a shot twice in a period during the 2006 Games. Japan was held without a shot in a period twice and China once during the 1998 Nagano Games.

Dani Cameranesi was issued a 5-minute boarding major for shoving defender Tereza Radova headfirst into the boards. Radova lay on the ice for a few minutes as medical staff tended to her and was woozy as she was helped off the ice. A trainer applied ice to Radova’s nose on the bench, and she also appeared to hurt her right hand.

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