Keith Kinkaid shined brightest just when Team USA needed him the most as they defeated top-seeded Czech Republic 2-1 in a shootout to advance to the semifinals at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Moscow on Thursday.
"It's a great feeling to get the win, especially with it coming down to the wire there," said the Farmingville, N.Y., native, who made 31 saves and stopped all three attempts in the shootout.
Czech Republic's only goal came in the first period on a penalty shot after Pat Maroon hauled down Tomas Zohorna on a shorthanded breakaway.
"It was definitely in the back of my mind [as I got ready for the shootout] and I'm happy I got to redeem myself there. I hate shootouts," Kinkaid said with a laugh. "I thought I had him in the penalty shot too. I'm just really glad we were able to get the win."
So was head coach John Hynes: "He gave us a chance to win the game and I think when you have games where there aren't many chances, you have to have goaltending to win. Whenever they had a good scoring chance, he found a way to make a save and gave our team a confidence level that we could go out there and win this."
As the U.S. advances to the semifinals on Saturday to face Canada for the opportunity to play for gold, Kinkaid looks forward to the chance to redeem himself from the 5-1 loss against Canada to open the tournament two weeks ago.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wanted to take it and see what it was all about," he explained. "Now that I'm here, I want to make the most of it and go home with a medal."
When Kinkaid said yes to his invitation to play at the world championship, Hynes was happy to have a goaltender he was familiar with.
"He's at his best when he's calm and he can play through traffic and he controls his rebounds and he did a pretty good job of that tonight. It's been nice to see him get back in there," said Hynes. "It's been competitive between him and Mike [Condon] to see who's gonna take the ball and run with it. So it's nice for him to be able to come in and continue to make it a competition."
Hynes continued: "He's at a point in his career now where you have Cory [Schneider], who's the main guy in New Jersey, and you have a young guy coming up in [Scott] Wedgewood and the ability to compete for the net and go through the process and know how hard it is to be a number one goalie is really important. From what I've seen as the coach, he's grown a lot this season and even in this tournament. He's rising to the challenge in the competition for the starting spot."
Along with new friendships with his USA teammates, Kinkaid is learning more about himself as a player and enjoying the experience.
"I don't know who would say no to this," he said. "It's just a lot of fun to be here and to get to play against some of the best players in the world. It's a challenge, but it will only make me better."