WJC: USA takes home the bronze, Mittelstadt honored as MVP

January 5, 2018

It was not the outcome that the United States had expected heading into the 2018 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship, but they still come away with some hardware in the end. 

After a disappointing loss for the Americans in the semifinals to Sweden on Thursday night, they bounce back with a 9-3 throttling of the Czech Republic Friday afternoon at KeyBank Center.

"Like I said yesterday, it was a tough loss [against Sweden], but we had to come out today and play with some pride and get a win. I think we did that pretty well," said USA and Buffalo Sabres forward Casey Mittelstadt.

Mittelstadt added an assist in the U.S. win, upping his final point total in the tournament to eleven with four goals and seven assists. Mittelstadt finished tied for the most points of the tournament, and also finished as the tournament's best forward (as selected by the Directorate) and tournament MVP. 

"I think that I played pretty well for the most part," Mittelstadt said. "I like to play with the puck on my stick and getting to play with good teammates who help out the team quite a bit. I think, for the most part, it was a good tournament. Obviously there are some things I wish I could have back, but I think overall it was pretty good."

It is the second time in Mittelstadt's career he has captured a bronze medal in international competition with Team USA. He won the bronze medal with the United States at the 2016 Under-18 World Championship in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Now, Mittelstadt will return to the University of Minnesota to complete his freshman season with the Golden Gophers. He, so far, has five goals and 17 points this season in Minnesota.

The U.S. has now won three medals in consecutive years at the World Juniors, taking home the bronze in 2016 and 2018, while winning gold last year in Canada.

Boston Bruins prospect Trent Frederic was the star of the show on Friday, scoring four goals on six shots on goal, and was Team USA's Player of the Game. He finished the World Junior tournament for the Americans netting five goals.

Team USA also got two goals from New York Islanders prospect Kieffer Bellows, who ended this year's tournament with nine goals and 10 points. Bellows' nine goals breaks a USA Hockey record for the most goals scored by one player in a single tournament, which was previously held by Jeremy Roenick.

USA captain Joey Anderson (New Jersey Devils), Ryan Poehling (Montreal Canadiens), and Patrick Harper (Nashville Predators) also scored for the U.S. in the win.

In net, Dallas Stars prospect Jake Oettinger shut the door on the Czechs throughout the night, stopping 28 of 31 shots faced. He gave up some time in net for Boston Bruins prospect Jeremy Swayman to get some action. Swayman ended up stopping all four shots he faced in 3:19.

The Czech Republic's amazing run at this year's World Juniors came to an end with the country just missing out on their first medal since 2005.

The Czechs were held scoreless through the first 40 minutes of hockey, but they were already down 7-0 by the time Martin Kaut (2018 NHL Draft eligible) found the back of the net just 43-seconds into the third period.

"It was tough for us," said Czech defenseman, and Sabres prospect Vojtech Budik. "We were upset after the game, [but] I think it was a good tournament for us. We played in the semifinals [for the first time in] 13 years, so it was good for us."

Budik had a respectable tournament for the Czechs, putting up five assists in seven games as one of their top-two defensemen on the team. Budik was relied upon to be a solid two-way defenseman to play responsibly in both ends, and was heavily relied upon with an average ice-time of 20:29. While Budik appeared to play well for his team on the ice, he felt he could have done more to help the team overall.

"I think [I didn't play] bad, but could be better in the corners, in front of the net too," Budik said. "I think sometimes I played good, sometimes I made mistakes too. I think it was a good experience for me to play here in Buffalo."

It's now back to the Western Hockey League with the Prince Albert Raiders for Budik, who has two goals and eleven points thus far in 32 games played.

2018 NHL Draft eligible prospect Filip Zadina put on a show for teams hoping to draft him this summer in Dallas, Texas. The 18-year old led the Czechs in goals scored this tournament with seven, and was tied for second overall in the tournament. His performance in this year's tournament did not go unnoticed, as he was voted as one of three Media All-Stars of the tournament at the forward position.

Come June, it is expected that Zadina will be a top-five selection in the NHL Draft. He is currently playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Halifax Mooseheads.

Carolina Hurricanes prospect Martin Necas also put up a good showing for the Czechs this tournament, finishing tied for the tournament lead in scoring with Mittelstadt at eleven points. However, Necas did not earn a spot as a Media All-Star in the tournament.

In goal, Josef Korenar was a star throughout the tournament for the Czechs, but was shelled for a second straight night, giving up five goals on 27 shots faced. He was pulled for Jakub Skarek in the second period, but re-entered the game in the third after Skarek allowed four goals on 12 shots faced.

The 2019 IIHF Under-20 World Junior Championship is off to Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada next year in December, before heading to the Czech Republic in 2020.