NORRTALJE, Sweden -- Nate Gerbe (Oxford, Mich./Boston College) scored two goals, Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y./London) added three assists and L.A. Kings prospect Jeff Zatkoff
(Chesterfield, Mich./Miami (Ohio) University) made 36 saves as the U.S. National Junior Team defeated the Czech Republic, 6-3, in an exhibition game at Contigahallen Arena today in preparation for the upcoming 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
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"I thought we gave a pretty solid effort overall," said U.S. Head Coach Ron Rolston (Fenton, Mich.). "It was a good game for us in the sense that we pretty much encountered every type of situation a game could have."
After the Czech Republic got out to a 1-0 lead 8:25 into the contest, the United States struck back with a pair of goals late in the first period. Gerbe tied the game at 16:11 when he tapped in a cross-ice pass from Kane during 4-on-4 action. Mike Carman (Apple Valley, Minn./University of Minnesota) gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission when he tipped a Taylor Chorney (Hastings, Minn./University of North Dakota) wrist shot over Czech goaltender Ondrej Pavelec's outstretched glove with just :09 left in the opening frame.
The Czech Republic tied the game at 1:07 of the second period, but the United States erupted for the next four goals to gain a 6-2 advantage after 40 minutes.
Jack Skille (Madison, Wis./University of Wisconsin) banged home the rebound of an Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn./University of Minnesota) one-timer on the power play at the 7:19, followed by LA King Prospect Jack Johnson
(Ann Arbor, Mich./University of Michigan) power-play tally 26 seconds later.
Gerbe notched his second goal of the game following a nifty triangle passing play involving Kane and Peter Mueller (Bloomington, Minn./Everett). Mueller controlled the puck behind the net before handing it off to Kane, who then fed a pass across the ice to Gerbe for the tap-in at 18:07. Trevor Lewis
(Murray, Utah/Owen Sound) capped off Team USA's scoring just 65 seconds later after taking a feed from Kyle Okposo (St. Paul, Minn./University of Minnesota) and firing a wrist shot past Czech goaltender Jakub Kovar from the top of the circle.
The Czech Republic scored the only goal of the third period to account for the 6-3 final.
The United States will play its second and final exhibition game on Friday (Dec. 22) against Switzerland at Contigahallen Arena. Game time is slated for 1:00 p.m. EST.
IIHF World Junior Championship competition kicks off for Team USA on Tuesday, Dec. 26, when the United States takes on Germany at Ejendals Arena in Leksand, Sweden, at 9 a.m. EST.
NOTES: A total of 11 Team USA players picked up points in today's win ... Zatkoff stopped a Czech Republic penalty shot at the 4:16 mark of the second period ... The 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship will feature athletes under the age of 20 on international teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland ... The U.S. National Junior Team is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia ...Eight members of the U.S. National Junior Team are returning from last year's team, including Chorney, Jeff Frazee (Burnsville, Minn./University of Minnesota), Gerbe, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Brian Lee (Moorhead, Minn./University of North Dakota), Mueller and Skille.