GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The U.S. will get an opportunity to defend its world junior hockey crown, but it will have to do it the hard way. The Americans have nobody to blame but themselves for the fact they must play a quarter-final game against Sweden tomorrow.
The U.S. lost 3-1 to the Czech Republic last night to finish third in Group A with a 2-2 record in the round-robin.
Russia finished first in Group A, getting the bye to Sunday's semifinals, which means Canada, first in Group B, won't have to face either the Russians or the U.S. until the tournament final on Tuesday.
The Czech Republic plays Finland in tomorrow's other quarter-final. Canada will play the winner of that game in one semifinal while Russia plays the U.S.-Sweden winner.
The U.S. could have avoided its extra game and would have finished first had it not been for Wednesday's stunning 5-3 loss to Belarus.
"We put ourselves in the tough position of having to play but we played really good hockey tonight and we'll be ready to go," said U.S. forward Rob Schremp of the London Knights. "We could have used the day off, but regardless of all that stuff we're only going to worry about Sweden right now."
When it was obvious the Americans were going to have a difficult time scoring on Czech goalie Vadislav Koutsky, Schremp, who has 26 goals in the OHL, started receiving a regular shift in the second period.
Until then he'd seen limited time in the tournament, usually on the power play. "I got some more ice time and it's been good."
Dan Fritsche of the Sarnia Sting scored the lone U.S. goal.
The U.S. hasn't received quality goaltending in this tournament and Cory Schneider's play has some NHL scouts wondering if the Americans would have been better off with Gerald Coleman of the London Knights as Al Montoya's backup. Schneider has played only six college games this season.
Many Canadian fans were among last night's crowd and took delight in taunting Montoya during the game.
CZECH REP. 3
UNITED STATES 1