USA defeated Czech Republic 3-0 at the 2015 IIHF World Championship to win the bronze medal at this event for the second time in three years.
With only 14 NHL players, two playing in european leagues, two AHL goalies and five guys fresh out of college, USA did what very few people thought they could do three weeks ago…win a medal.
"Before we came to this tournament, I don't think a lot of people were giving us a chance to win anything at this tournament," said USA head coach todd Richards. "There were questions about goaltenders. There were questions about youth, saying we weren't experienced enough and for a lot of guys this was their first experience in international hockey.
"You come over here and you don't know what you have and you go out and you practice for the first time and our first practice was terrible. It really was. It actually made you scared as a coach. You don't know what to expect and then you win a game and you win another game and the goaltender's playing well and gives the team confidence and you're able to coach a little bit more and teach a little bit more and your game gets better and better….I'm really proud of them."
The Czechs came out strong for the first few minutes and USA relied heavily on goaltender Connor Hellebuyck to help them weather the storm as he came up with big save after big save. Near the midway point of the first period, Brock Nelson, who leads USA in goals with six, fired a shot from the boards that was stopped by Ondrej Pavelec but a juicy rebound went right to Nick Bonino in the slot, who put it home for an early 1-0 lead.
In the final minutes of the opening frame, Jack Eichel threaded a pass through traffic to find Trevor Lewis in front for the redirection and another USA goal to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes.
"I just went to the net and I knew Jack would see me," Lewis explained. "He's got great vision and made an awesome pass and I just tipped it in."
Knowing they were in a hole, Czech Republic again jumped out to a fast start with opportunities by Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Dominik Simon, Jan Kolar, but Hellebuyck was there each and every time, including a spectacular toe save against Martin Erat and several good looks on a four minute power play. Shots in that period were 12-4 in favor of the Czechs, but USA once again weathered the storm and waited for their opportunities.
With 50 seconds left in the second, Coyle found himself with the puck high in the slot and wired a shot past Pavelec to make it 3-0 after 40 minutes of play.
In the third period, Czech Republic gave it everything they had firing 16 shots on Hellebuyck - while USA only had one - but the 21-year-old stood tall again in net to earn the 35-save shutout and help USA win the bronze.
"Connor was great tonight. Again, he was our best player," said Lewis. "When we had breakdowns, he was there to stop pucks for us. He was awesome. I can't say enough about him. He was great."
He was so great with his tournament leading .948 save percentage, 1.37 goals against average, and two shutouts while facing the most shots in the tournament, that the media voted him to their All Star Team.
Hellebuyck, Lewis and defenseman Seth Jones were named as USA's best players of the tournament.
"Expectations were to win gold when we first came here," said Lewis. "We had a young group and I thought we battled hard all the way through and we had a great tournament. To come away from here with a medal is awesome."