EDMONTON -- Petr Mrazek dropped his knee to the ground and pumped his blocker.
The Ottawa 67's goalie did it again. Just like he stopped Canadian Mark Stone on a penalty shot two nights earlier, the 19-year-old from the Czech Republic turned the trick again on United States forward Josh Archibald early in the third period on Friday.
Mrazek was ecstatic and exhibited his excitement with his celebration. The 14,733 onlookers at Rexall Place shared in the youngster's jubilation. A minute later Czech Petr Holik would put his team in front for good en route to a stunning 5-2 victory
The loss meant the U.S. had been purged from the medal round at the 2012 world under-20 championship and meant Canada had a spot in the tournament semifinals in Calgary on Tuesday. It also meant the Canada-U.S. on New Year's Eve will be a meaningless affair in terms of tournament standings.
"No words can describe it," U.S. captain Jason Zucker said. "We played a fantastic game. I thought we played outstanding. Usually, if you get 54 shots in a game you give yourself a damn good chance to win that game. Hats off to them. They played well. Their goalie played great."
Mrazek, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, skated a victory lap after his 52-save effort. But his antics on the penalty shot didn't sit well with Zucker and his teammates.
"Disgusting," he said. "They didn't have the game won at that time. Ridiculous."
Those harsh words also could be used to describe the early exit from the U.S. at this event. These things happen, but big things were expected from this U.S. team. They had seven returning players from last year's bronze-medal winning squad and eight first-round draft picks in the line-up.
Sure the team's chances took a hit when the Carolina Hurricanes decided not to loan defenceman Justin Faulk. It also didn't help the cause when defenceman Seth Jones was hurt in an exhibition game and as a result had to be replaced. Then, Los Angeles Kings prospect Derek Forbort, also a defenceman, was knocked out in the first period of Friday's game.
'Ton of heart'
The U.S. opened the tournament with a convincing 11-3 win over Denmark, but dropped a 4-1 decision to Finland on Wednesday and failed to rebound against the Czechs.
"We gave it our all tonight," Zucker said. "Every kid in that room has a ton of heart and every kid in that room wants to win. It just didn't happen."
The U.S. players could reduce some of the embarrassment with a win over rival Canada on Saturday.
"We're going to beat 'em," Zucker said. "That's what we're going to do. We're going to try our best and go out there and not change anything we do.
"They're still our rival. We still want to beat them. We still don't like them. They still don't like us. It's not going to be a hard game to get up for no matter what."
The New Year's Eve game will pit London Knight teammates Scott Harrington (Canada) against Jarred Tinordi (U.S.). Although Canadian coach Don Hay would not divulge who he is starting in goal on Saturday, goalie Scott Wedgewood could face his Plymouth Whalers teammate J.T. Miller.
"We know the U.S. is going to play hard against us," Hay said. "They have a lot of pride. We have quite a rivalry between the two countries. For us, we're looking forward to the game, playing hard and earning our way in.
"These are two countries that like to go head-to-head against one another. There are a lot of rivalries among these two teams, a lot of players play against one another in the CHL and play against each other in other competitions."
Was Hay surprised to see the U.S. knocked out of medal contention?
"When you run into a hot goaltender anything can happen," he said. "The Czech goalie was the best player on the ice. After he made the save on the penalty shot, that really gave him some momentum, even though they were really under pressure right after [the penalty shot]. He held them in there and gave them a chance to come out with the win."
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