2024 Worlds Game Preview: USA vs Czechia

Team USA looks to keep the good times rolling tonight when they take on Czechia at the IIHF Women's World Championships.

2024 Worlds Game Preview: USA vs Czechia
Tessa Janecke scores for the U.S. during their 2023 semifinal game against Czechia. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

The United States is back in action with another nightcap game tonight, as they take on Czechia at 7 p.m. EDT.

The Basics: Friday, April 5- United States vs Czechia- 7 p.m. EDT, Adirondack Bank Center, Utica, NY (NHL Network, TSN3)

What to Expect

Harvey takes a shot on Zechovská. Harvey is on her knee following the shot, while Zechovská is dropping down to hers while making the save. Two Czech defenders are visible on the edges of the photo. Harvey is wearing white, while all the Czechs are in red.
Caroline Harvey takes a shot on Kateřina Zechovská during a 2023 semifinal game. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

The Americans are coming off a 4-0 win over Switzerland on Wednesday. After a scoreless first period, the U.S. finally cracked Swiss goaltender Andrea Brändli, who stopped 51 shots in a stellar performance despite the loss. Senior national team newcomer Haley Winn scored two goals in her debut, while veterans Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield potted the others. Overall, the U.S. dominated the game, and without Brändli, the game could have been much more lopsided. They’ll look to keep the good times rolling tonight in the first half of a back-to-back against the Czechs before facing Finland tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Czechs are coming off a massive 4-0 win over Finland on Wednesday afternoon. Adéla Šapovalivová, Klára Hymlárová, Natálie Mlýnková, and Tereza Plosová each tallied a goal, with the latter two potting empty netters. Given the two empty net goals, the game was not quite as lopsided as the score suggests, but it was still an outstanding performance from Czechia and they outshot the Finns 33-21. The statement win put Czechia in a good position to get a high seed going into the knockout rounds, where they hope to earn a third-straight bronze medal at minimum, but perhaps even more. Look for them to harness some of the momentum they built on Wednesday and try to show that they can hang with the big dogs.

Klára Peslarová makes a play on the puck behind her net. There is a Finnish defender in pursuit. Peslarová is wearing a white uniform with red shoulders, while the Finnish defender is wearing a navy blue uniform.
Klára Peslarová makes a play on the puck behind her net during their game against Finland. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

In goal for the Czechs tonight, expect Klára Peslarová to get another start after getting the shutout against Finland. Despite missing last year’s World due to injury, there was little doubt she’d re-assume her longtime starting role this year, which she has. She is coming off a career season with the SDHL’s Brynäs IF, posting a 14-6-0 record to go along with her sparkling 1.76 GAA and 0.935 SV%.

As for the Americans, Nicole Hensley is likely to get the start. Given the back-to-back, she will get the crease in one of the two games, and based on recent history, my gut says that will be tonight. In the past three tournaments, the U.S. has started two different goaltenders in the first two games, regardless of the opponent, and they didn’t even have back-to-backs in those tournaments. The U.S. has always had the luxury of having multiple outstanding, experienced goaltenders on the roster, so it makes sense that they let the top two get into game action early. The back-to-back makes things a little more interesting this year, but I’m still guessing it’ll be Hensley tonight and Aerin Frankel tomorrow. Hensley has been phenomenal for an excellent PWHL Minnesota team this season, with a 3-3-1-3 record alongside a superb 1.79 GAA and 0.933 SV%.

USA Key to the Game

Savannah Harmon (right) makes a pass under Michaela Pejzlová's stick. Both players are hunched over with outreached sticks. Harmon is wearing white, Pejzlová is in red.
Savannah Harmon makes a pass under Michaela Pejzlová's stick during the 2023 Worlds. Photo by Matt Zambonin/IIHF.

Come ready to play from the start. The Americans did a great job of playing a full 60 minutes on Wednesday, and they’ll need to bring that same effort tonight. Despite the U.S. dominating the Czechs in the past, they are not to be taken lightly. As mentioned earlier, the Czechs are hungry to prove that they can be more than just a bronze-medal team, and this is perhaps the best roster they’ve ever fielded. They showed that against rival Finland, and now it’s time to prove themselves against one of the big guns. The U.S. is still a heavy favorite in this one, but they would be wise not to give Czechia any hope early.