January 5, 2005
U.S. shut out of medals
By JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The Americans won't have to pass through a "medal" detector today at the airport.
The U.S. was denied a bronze medal yesterday when Petr Vrana scored 2:38 into overtime, giving the Czech Republic a 3-2 victory.
The U.S., which won the gold medal last year in Helsinki with a 4-3 win over Canada, was looking for its first back-to-back medals at the world junior hockey championship.
This was only the third medal for the Czechs since 1994 and the breakup of Czechoslovakia. They won gold in 2000 and 2001.
Vrana, who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads in the Quebec major junior league, learned just before the game that his coach of three years, Shawn MacKenzie, was fired with an 18-10-6-2 record.
"I was kind of confused. But that's not my decision. I tried not to think about it. I just tried to play hard today and I might think about it tonight."
Vrana said it was an unexpected win. "I don't think we had the greatest team we could have. We left some guys at home and I don't think we were expecting this, but we had a lot of guys who wanted to play hard and play with their hearts for the Czech Republic."
It wasn't a good tournament for University of Michigan goaltender Al Montoya, a first-round pick of the New York Rangers.
He starred last year in Helsinki but struggled here. He whiffed on Vrana's winner after he got in behind U.S. defenceman Jeff Likens.
"We had one breakdown and they took advantage of it," said Rob Schremp, who returns to the London Knights where he had been leading the OHL in goals with 26 when he left to join the U.S. team.
He's since been overtaken by Geoff Platt of the Erie Otters.
There was criticism of USA Hockey early on for the little ice time Schremp was receiving, but as the tournament progressed that increased for the Edmonton Oilers first-round draft pick.
"I was used well," said Schremp, who finished with four goals and one assist in seven games and will be eligible to play in the tournament next year in Vancouver.
"I took my opportunities and did what I did with them. I was really happy just to be here and then to get ice time the last couple of games. . . . It was a great opportunity for me.
"Last year in London where I got benched (in Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference final), that helped me deal with situations like this. I just block it out and just worry about where I get my chances on the ice and take advantage of it.
"I think I've grown a lot from that in London. When it happened the first couple games here it didn't really faze me. I just knew if I got on the ice I could make something happen with it."
Schremp said his spirits will be lifted by the time he rejoins the Knights. "It sucks, losing bronze, but this will help me. The speed of this hockey makes you a better player. These are the best (juniors) in the world, so it makes you a better player and I'll bring that back to the O. Losing is tough . . . I'll get focused."
The U.S. team appeared dysfunctional at times, something Patrick O'Sullivan of the Mississauga IceDogs spoke about.
"We certainly had our ups and downs (including a loss to Belarus in the preliminary round) and we had to battle.
"We had eight guys from last year and we tried to bring everything we could to this team and tried to create the best chemistry we could.
"Winning last year was such a good feeling. I don't want to say we took it for granted a little bit. . . . We did the best we could.
"Today was my 20th game in world juniors. It's the last hurrah, I guess, and to go like this is not the best feeling. But I did achieve something last year."