Johnny Gaudreau may have had a slow start to the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship but he has heated up at the perfect time for the USA.
Gaudreau notched a hat trick against the Czech Republic in the Americans 7-0 win in the quarter-final match-up. In his last two games at the tournament, the Flames prospect has five goals and six points.
His impressive performance earned him the USA Player of Game nod.
The victory pushes the USA to the semi-finals, squaring off against Canada on Thursday. The TSN pre-game show kicks off at 1:30 AM MT and the puck drops at 2:00 AM MT.
The US was without blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere due to his suspension for a slash on Slovakia's Matus Matis on Monday. In his absence, Calgary Flames prospect Patrick Sieloff was moved up to play with Jacob Trouba on the Americans second defensive pairing.
The duo are quite familiar with each other as they played two seasons together with the US. National Team Development Program team. They were the Americans top pairing at the 2012 IIHF Under 18 World Hockey Championship, a squad that captured gold at the tournament.
Sieloff stepped into the role easily, playing a very steady game in his own zone. Late in the game, he even got some time on the power play as the USA rested their regulars in anticipation of the semi-final tilt on Thursday.
Gaudreau picked up his third goal of the tournament on a five-on-three power play during the first period. He snapped a broken pass by Jacob Trouba past Czech goaltender Patrik Bartosak from his perch at the side of the net at 11:45.
The Americans second goal was almost identical to the opening tally. Gaudreau, hovering around the right side of the net, gobbled up a broken pass and sent it over Bartosak.
Bartosak's night came to an end after 2013 draft-eligible Ryan Hartmann collected Trouba's rebound at the faceoff circle and scored the Americans third goal of the game. Matej Machovsky replaced Bartosak in net.
Riley Barber added another power play marker at 9:44 of the second period. Alex Galchenyuk split through the Czech defence and drew the attention of a third penalty killer, leaving Barber open and ready to wire the shot when Galchenyuk dished it off to him.
Barber added his second goal of the game while the USA was shorthanded. Taking advantage of the fact a Czech player had fallen, he took off up ice and deked around Machovsky to make it 5-0.
Gaudreau completed the hat trick with 13 seconds left in the second frame, scoring his third power play marker after slipping behind the defence, taking a pass from J.T. Miller and quickly unloading a shot.
The USA's seventh goal of the game - their fifth with the man advantage - came off the foot of Miller when the Trouba's hard blast deflected off his skate in the third period.
USA'S LINES, DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS & GOALTENDER
Johnny Gaudreau - J.T. Miller - Jim Vesey
Alex Galchenyuk - Sean Kuraly - Riley Barber
Blake Pietila - Cole Bardreau - Ryan Hartman
Rocco Grimaldi - Vince Trocheck - Tyler Biggs
Mike Reilly - Seth Jones
Patrick Sieloff - Jacob Trouba
Jake McCabe - Connor Murphy