The USA vs. Czech Republic Blue Division game was serious business, and both teams had their minds set on a real battle. The Czechs entered the game 1-0 after taking down England in a tight game, and the US entered the game at 0-1, after a 13-9 loss to the loaded Iroquois.
Many US players watched the Czech Republic – England game in person, and the Czechs have had their eyes on beating the US for a long time. No one was entering this game with any illusions. It was going to be great contest!
USA Vs Czech Republic – 1st Quarter
The US opened things up by winning face offs and using their size and athleticism to their advantage to get a good shot, but Dominik Pesek was the first to score in the game for the Czechs. Pesek had six goals in his last game (against England) and got things going right away against the US when he picked up a missed loose ball and cut across the crease to put one in far side.
The US would win the next face off, and then open things up while creating a 6-1 lead early on. CJ Costabile gave the US plenty of draw wins, and the US got goals from Garrett Thul, a diver from Jeff Ratcliffe, an overhand shot from Marcus Holman and then a beautiful twister from Kevin Buchanan inside off a feed from Thul. Donny Moss scored one in a 2 on 1 transition chance, and then defenseman Chris O’Dougherty scored a man down goal to give the USA a 5 goal cushion.
Radek Skala notched the Czech’s second goal with a nice underhand that that showed a very smooth release. Then the scoring slowed down a bit, and we saw some penalties, plenty of violations, and a number of very solid saves from Mike Poulin (CZE) and Jake Henhawk (USA). Both teams were playing physical lacrosse, and the Czechs stuck with their tricky style of play, while the US focused more on using their size and athleticism. From the get go, it was a great contrast in style from two talented teams.
Jiri Loskot got the Czechs back in it a little more, and brought the score to 6-3, while the Czech team was man down. He used deception to squeeze one by Henhawk as he got double teamed, and showed some great IQ with the shot. The Czechs got the ball back off a violation, and more or less killed the rest of the penalty. There was some quality back and forth action, but no goals, before the Czechs called a timeout with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. The pulled their goalie and got six offensive players on for a last chance at another goal, but the US defense turned them away, and the first quarter ended with the USA leading 6-3.
USA Vs Czech Republic – 2nd Quarter
The second quarter started off without many goals, but about 4 minutes in, after both teams got some quality looks, CJ Costabile found Buchanan cutting in from the bench, and Bucky got another goal with the twister shot in tight. Almost immediately after the next draw, Moss crosschecked a Czech player, the Czechs pulled their goalie to give them six attackers, and Jiri Kostal made the USA pay for the penalty with a nice finish near the goal when the ball squirted over to him off a pass from Skala. Moss’ penalty was wiped out by the goal and we returned to 5 on 5 lacrosse.
The US went down a man due to having too many men while on offense, but the Czechs couldn’t capitalize. Kevin Buchanan scored on a short-handed possession beating two guys cleanly to get to the crease, pump a fake, and finish back on the short side. Marcus Holman then stepped on quickly after a face off win, picking up a feed, and scoring, to put the US up 9-4. However, on the very next possession, the US got hit with another too many men penalty, and we got to see the bad, the good, and then the bad again off early substitutions in only about 40 seconds of actual play.
Joel White put the US 10-4 with a transition man-down goal. I’m not sure how the US ran a 3 on zero fast break, but they only needed one guy to get the job done. Simple fake, and White put in a corner. After some more back and forth, and with under a minute left in the half, White got another chance in transition when he found Holman cutting through in what looked like a covered play by the Czechs. It was a great feed, catch, and finish for the US, and marked Holman’s third on the day. The US got possession with 20 seconds left, and called timeout to figure out a six on five play to finish the first half.
The US ran a nice play where Thul cut around the lefty side, moved over to the righty shooter spot up top, and pump in a perfect high offside goal with only a couple seconds left. The ball movement and spacing was excellent, and the US looked a lot more organized than they did against the Iroquois. A 12-4 lead over a very good Czech team was something to be extremely happy about.
USA Vs Czech Republic – Halftime Thoughts
The US used a lefty heavy set (Walters, Thul, Buchanan, Riorden) for much of the first half. Marcus Holman provided a somewhat surprising inside presence, and if I’m not mistaken, we didn’t see Casey Powell hit the floor once. Henhawk looked good in goal, but the athleticism of the US defense, and their ability to keep the Czechs to the outside, or under tremendous pressure had to be noted.
The Czech team used a righty heavy set, relying on Pesek, Petr Poupe, Radek Skala and a couple others to cycle an initiate. Kostal and Loskot were the primary lefties, with Skokan also seeing good time. The Czechs have not yet been able to overload the left and then left Kostal post up and feed as they often do, and they seem to lack some of the creative play of their first game. The US defense has clearly done their homework.
USA Vs Czech Republic – 3rd Quarter
Early in the third period the Czech team took a slash on offense, and went man-down. On the ensuing man-up, the US got another delayed penalty, cycled the ball to Thul on the left wing, and he put one overhand through the legs of Poulin to put the US up 13-4. One of the Czech penalties was released, but Kyle Ross remained in the box for 2 minutes after his slash. The US got 5-6 good shots on goal, and some shot clock resets, for a long possession, but couldn’t quite put the ball away. Poulin was rock solid and calm for the entire man-down.
The Czechs went back on the man-up after a US hold, and again put out a righty heavy set. They got a look to Pesek, but the US recovered, and took it down the floor, killing penalty time. A shot clock violation turned the ball back over to the Czechs, and a TV timeout allowed them some time to plan for their next possession. With Mather now in goal for the US, the Czechs could not muster up any great chances, and the 13-4 lead for USA remained as is. Neither team was able to generate a truly great opportunity, but Poulin was forced to make a number of solid saves, which he did with ease.
I was very impressed with how much the US was able to push out on defense. They never let the Czech team settle down, and by pressing out, they put pressure on, which the US recovered from well when beat one on one. They were physical in the middle, but the aggressive push to outer level passers really disrupted the Czech flow on offense. It showed some excellent scouting and execution. The closest either team really came to notching a goal was Kevin Buchanan ringing a lefty blast off the pipe with about .5 seconds left in the quarter. USA lead 13-4, and this one looked like it was pretty much settled.
USA Vs Czech Republic – 4th Quarter
The Czechs begged to differ with my assessment, and in transition Camil Trahilik found Radek Skala in tight, and Skala put the ball away with a nice simple finish. The score was now 1-1 in the second half. That doesn’t mean anything, but if there was going to be a Czech comeback, that was a point to focus on!
Both teams generated some good chances, but Joe Walters stepped in and hit the back of the net to put the US back up by 9, 14-5. Trahilik again pushed transition for the Czechs and this time he found Skokan, who was first out of the box. Skokan threw a nice fake and put it away before landing in the crease with the score now sitting at 14-6. Prior to that goal, Mather had looked very good in cage, although there wasn’t much he could do about the last one. At this point in the game, both teams started to slow down a little bit, as if to conserve energy for later in the week.
A little bit of chippy play had been brewing, especially as players began to realize what the result would be but overall the game was pretty clean up to this point. After the ball went behind the Czech cage however, things got a little rowdy. Kyle Ross was in the middle of it all, and he showed some classic box moves by pushing heavily on Garrett Thul’s mask, but not “fighting” him. He wasn’t ejected, but he did receive a penalty for his actions. CJ Costabile also landed a 10 minute penalty, so the teams spent some time playing 5 on 5, and CJ was done for the game as only 7 minutes were left. A Jeff Reynolds goal was waived off for a crease violation, and after a solid run of shots from the US, the Czechs got a goal back on the break to close the gap to 14-7.
The rest of the way we didn’t see a ton of action, and for the last 5 minutes only a couple of real scoring chances were generated on either end. Both defenses and goaltenders held their ground, and this one finished up with a 14-7 USA Vs Czech Republic win. Both teams now sit at 1-1. The US still plays Canada and England, and the Czech Republic plays Canada and the Iroquois.