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U.S. set for medal round opener vs. Czech Republic

by Mike G. Morreale

One year ago, the U.S. National Junior Team suffered an agonizing defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic in preliminary round action at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

The loss assured that the United States would not advance to the medal round for the first time since 1999.

The Americans are determined not to let history repeat itself Wednesday on an even bigger stage when they meet the Czechs in their opener of the 2013 WJC medal round in Ufa, Russia (4 a.m. ET,, NHLN-US, TSN).

The winner of Wednesday's quarterfinal-round game will advance to play Canada in the semifinals. Canada, which beat The Americans 2-1 in the preliminary round, won Group B and earned a bye into the semifinal round Thursday.

After putting up nine goals in a victory against Slovakia on Monday, the United States has points from all but one player -- defenseman Pat Sieloff. Alex Galchenyuk leads the way with seven points (two goals, five assists) while Jacob Trouba has four goals for the team lead in that category. The club will be without defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who was suspended one game for the slashing major and game misconduct he was assessed against Slovakia.

St. Louis Blues prospect Dmitrij Jaskin leads the Czech Republic with five points (two goals, three assists).

The United States is the most penalized team in the tournament, but also has the best penalty-kill percentage at 88 percent. The Czechs have only scored three power-play goals on 18 chances in four tournament games.

John Gibson has starred for the United States between the pipes with a 1.93 goals against and .936 save percentage. The Czech Republic has also received solid goaltending from 2013 draft-eligible Patrik Bartosak, who sports a 1.98 GAA and .924 save percentage.

It's worth noting that the Czechs were led by goalie Petr Mrazek in last year's stunning 5-2 victory against the United States. Mrazek made 52 saves, including a stop of a penalty-shot during a 21-save effort in the third period.

The United States leads the all-time series against the Czechs at the WJC, 8-1-1-7-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L-T).

Here's the expected lineup for Team USA:

John Gaudreau - J.T. Miller - Jimmy Vesey

Alex Galchenyuk - Sean Kuraly - Riley Barber

Blake Pietila - Cole Bardreau - Ryan Hartman

Mario Lucia - Vincent Trocheck - Tyler Biggs

Rocco Grimaldi

Jake McCabe - Seth Jones

Patrick Sieloff - Jacob Trouba

Mike Reilly - Connor Murphy

Gibson will start in goal with Jon Gillies serving as the backup.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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