2014 World Juniors: Team USA wins WJC opener 5-1

Bruce Bennett

Five different players scored for the Americans as the team made an impression against Czech Republic in Group A play. USA next faces Slovakia at 7:30 am ET Saturday.

In such a short tournament it is important to get off on the right foot. Mission accomplished for Team USA.

The Americans defeated Czech Republic 5-1 Thursday at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden. It was the opening game for both teams. Five different players scored for head coach Don Lucia's team, including a pair of power play goals by Riley Barber (Washington Capitals draft pick and Miami University) and Will Butcher (Colorado Avalanche/University of Denver) during the opening 2:02.

While the Czech Republic settled down after an opening barrage, Team USA continued to play well. Hudson Fasching (Los Angeles Kings/University of Minnesota) tapped home a rebound 9:23 into the second period to give USA a 3-0 lead.

Fasching was part of a line with Andrew Copp (Winnipeg Jets/University of Michigan) and Stefan Matteau (New Jersey Devils), who was named the U.S. Player of the Game, that was easily America's best Thursday.

Jaccob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes/Colorado College) made it 4-0 later in the second. He finished a play started by Zach Stepan (Nashville Predators/Minnesota State University) tipping a Brady Skjei (New York Rangers/Minnesota) shot off of Czech goalie Daniel Dolejs and bouncing right to the CC defenseman.

The Czech Republic's Michal Plutnar and USA's Vince Hinostroza (Chicago Blackhawks/Notre Dame), meanwhile, traded goals in the third period.

Jon Gillies (Calgary Flames/Providence College) stopped 23 of 24 shots on goal for the United States.

Although Team USA made an impression for a first game, there is still work to be done. The third line played fantastic yet others are still coming together. A couple of chances weren't converted. Others were saved by Dolejs.

Still, it's early and there is plenty to be pleased. Both Slavin and 17 year-old center Jack Eichel (Boston University recruit/2015 Draft Eligible) shined despite both not playing at the August camp in Lake Placid. In the former's case, he continues to help his cause. At the same time, Eichel is impressive as the youngest player on the American team.

Team USA next faces Slovakia at 7:30 am ET on December 28. NHL Network will televise the game while it will be streamed on NHL.com.

Other notes:

-Stepan left Thursday's game with 11:33 left in the third period and didn't return. The Minnesota State freshman was a late addition to the camp roster after missing several games for the Mavericks due to injury.

-Puck possession was key for Team USA. That started at the face-off dot. Copp won 12 of 18 draws against the Czech Republic and Eichel won 10 of 15 Thursday.

-While the Czechs may not have the firepower of the top teams, Gillies made several key saves when the game was 2-0. He played the way he needed to in the WJC.

-Canada defeated Germany 7-2 in the other Group A game played Thursday in Malmo.

--

Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter --

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