On paper, having the top-ranked team in the world versus a Czech team with no Olympic experience and just four years of experience at the top World Championship level should have been one-sided. An 18-0 shot advantage in the first was a good indication of that, too.
But Friday's meeting between USA and the Czech Republic was much closer than most expected, with the United States eventually taking a 4-1 win.
The Americans prevented the Czechs from getting any shots on net in the first, but Klara Peslarova was up for the challenge. But like in most lop-sided games, shots-wise, the Czechs needed to answer back big before Peslarova got too worn out.
And luckily for Peslarova, that's exactly what the Czechs did. On just the team's first shot of the game at 24:59, Daniela Pejsova scored after the Czechs crashed the net, leaving a loose puck to go through traffic around the crease. Pejsova was able to send the puck past a fallen Alex Cavallini and in for the 1-0 goal, a shock to an American team that had completely dominated the start of the game.
But the lead didn't last too long. At 5:47, Kendall Coyne Schofield's shot was stopped, but Hilary Knight was there to knock in the bouncing puck and beat Peslarova for the 1-1 goal.
Peslarova gave it her all, but at 46:49, the Americans scored to take a lead they'd never relinquish. Lee Stecklein's shot from the point would get deflected off a Czech stick and in, with Peslarova unable to react without her stick. Peslarova made 58 saves in a brilliant effort, but additional goals from Savannah Harmon and Kendall Coyne Schofield left sealed the deal for the Americans.
The United States will await its semifinal competitor before embarking on the final four on Feb. 14.