U.S. women's hockey beats Czech Republic in close game to advance to semifinal

The US women’s hockey team surged to a 4-1 win against the Czech Republic at the Beijing Games on Friday, advancing after a victory that, for a time, seemed uncertain.

The Czech Republic’s Michaela Pejzlová scored first, but Hilary Knight immediately answered with the first US goal to end the second period tied 1-1.

The teams entered the third period with the US women’s era of Olympic hockey dominance at stake, but then came three unanswered US goals.

Lee Stecklein scored to make it 2-1, followed by a late goal from Savannah Harmon. Kendall Coyne Schofield scored the fourth and final goal on an empty net with just seconds left.

The Czech Republic women, in their first Olympics, were eliminated.

The US scored four times, but they had 59 shots on goal, compared to just 6 by the Czechs. Had the American team lost, it would have been a major upset.

The USA’s Kelly Pannek, who assisted on Stecklein’s goal, said that taking the lead when they did gave the team breathing room.

“Obviously in a close game like that to get the next goal to go ahead is huge,” she said. “To be able to kind of get that a little earlier in the third period definitely let us play a little more free.”

Team USA lost forward Brianna Decker to an injury in the Olympic opener against Finland on Feb. 3, but she has acted as an extra coach and continued to help mentor younger players.

A US women’s hockey team has medaled in every Olympics since the inaugural women’s competition at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

The US won gold at that Olympics, and won their second gold at the PyeongChang Games in 2018 by beating Canada in a shootout. Overall, the US women have won two golds, three silvers and a bronze.

Team USA will play the semifinal match against the winner of a Finland-Japan game scheduled for Saturday.

Canada plays Sweden in the women’s quarterfinals later Friday in Beijing.

The Associated Press contributed.

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