By Dory LeBlanc
In a rematch of the gold medal game four years ago, Team U.S.A. will face their northern rivals, Team Canada, on Friday in the Olympics semifinals in Sochi.
James van Riemsdyk kept the Americans' M.O. of jumping out to an early lead intact, scoringt 1:39 into the contest, but a lull in the defensely allowed the Czechs to counter roughly three minutes later. The goal initially looked to go in off of U.S. defenseman Ryan McDonagh, but Milan Michalek takes the official credit with the equalizer.
With 5:22 to go in the opening period, Dustin Brown took a an outstanding feed from David Backes and sent it easily into a wide open net to put the U.S. up 2-1 (see tweet below for Backes' pass).
With less than two seconds remaining, Backes added to his impressive first period, putting the American up by a pair after taking a Ryan Suter rebound from the boards and sending the puck past a sprawling Ondrej Pavelec.
Trailing 3-1, the Czech Republic fought hard through much of the beginning of the second period, forcing Jonathan Quick to make quality saves and by controlling the puck much more than they did in the first and playing the U.S. more aggressively. That aggression paid off for Team U.S.A. however, as Zach Parise put the Americans up 4-1 on a power play after Zbynek Michalek sat out for interference.
Following the captain's goal, Czech head coach Alois Hadamczik opted to pull Pavelec in favor of Alexander Salak.
The speed of Team U.S.A. has given their opponents fits this tournament and Wednesday was no exception. 2:01 into the third period, the rush was on until Ryan Kesler slowed the pace enough to get off a perfect pass that put the puck on Phil Kessel's stick who put the breaks on at the crease and jammed it home for a four-goal lead.
With the victory likely in hand, the U.S. slowed their play and looked lethargic at times and several shots went wide of the net throughout the remainder of the tilt.
At 13:00 of the third, the Edmonton Oilers' Ales Hemsky brough a gleam of hope back to the Czechs, when he fired a shot past Quick to cut into the Americans' lead.
With a minute and a half left to go, Backes almost notched another point, but Blake Wheeler couldn't settle the pass on his backhand and the U.S. would skate into the semis with the 5-2 final over the Czech Republic.
GIF: An unreal feed from David Backes sets up Dustin Brown's go-ahead goal http://t.co/pQqpJkjoXj— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 19, 2014
Tom Jones was born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and studied English at the University of South Florida from 1982 to 1986.
He began his writing career with the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1985. He then went on to work for the St. Petersburg Times from 1987 to 1991, the Tampa Tribune from 1991 to 1996, the St. Petersburg Times again from 1996 to 2000 and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune from 2000 to 2003. He then rejoined the St. Petersburg Times for a third time in his career in 2003, where he worked ever since.
Jones has spent most of his career covering the NHL, including being a beat writer for more than 15 years of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota. Wild. He also spent two years on the Tampa Bay Rays beat. He then become a columnist at Times starting in 2007. Jones has won several national and state writing awards, including a top 10 game story in the nation in 1998 as named by the Associated Press Sports Editors.
Over the course of his career, Jones has covered the Olympics, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup finals, baseball and hockey all-star games, the NCAA basketball tournament and the Frozen Four.
Jones lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Patty, and sons, Sam and Andy.
With over two decades of reporting on professional and collegiate sports for the Tampa Bay Times, through performance and work experience in journalism and broadcasting in television and radio, Rick Stroud has cultivated an impressive list of sources and utilized his knowledge to produce an outstanding body of work in both print and electronic mediums.
During his career, Stroud has reported on national sporting events including 22 Super Bowls, the NCAA Final Four, and the Major League Baseball Playoffs. While working as the beat writer assigned to the University of Florida at the Times, Stroudâ€™s stories documented NCAA rules violations by the football and basketball programs. The stories for which Stroud won second place for Best Investigative Reporting from the Associated Press Sports Editors, led to sanctions against both Gators programs.
Since 2004, Stroud has appeared as an NFL Insider for ESPN2â€™s First Take and is a regular contributor to ESPNâ€™s SportsCenter, NFL Live, Outside the Lines and Herd with Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio. He also contributes to NFL Networkâ€™s Total Access.
Stroud becan covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the National Football League in 1990. Since then, the Bucs have undergone seven coaching changes, the death of owner Hugh Culverhouse and the sale of the franchise to billionaire owner Malcolm Glazer and a stadium referendum. They also celebrated a Super Bowl XXVII victory. His reporting was referenced in Tony Dungyâ€™s best seller, Quiet Strength, particularly because it was Stroud who informed Dungy of the Bucsâ€™ plan to replace him with Giants Super Bowl coach Bill Parcells.
A former Div. I-A baseball player at Arkansas , Stroud brings a unique perspective to sports reporting. During the NFL lockout in 2011, he also served as one of the Timesâ€™ beat writers responsible for covering the Tampa Bay Rays.