In the sport of hockey, captains are leaders both on and off of the ice. In their World Championship quarterfinal contest against the Czech Republic on Thursday, the actions of United States captain Justin Abdelkader may have directly let to their early exodus from the tournament.
With the game tied 1-1 early in the second period, Abdelkader launched himself into Vladimir Sobotka; hitting the Czech forward in the head. As his feet also left the ice, Abdelkader was assessed a game misconduct and a five minute major for charging.
The Czechs capitalized just 10 seconds into their man advantage, when Tomas Hertl beat goaltender Tim Thomas to break the tie. Just over a minute later, Roman Cervenka would add another powerplay tally. The Czechs would also add another goal in the frame.
The United States made things interesting late in the third, with Tyler Johnson scoring with just over one minute remaining, then again 13 seconds later to cut the deficit to one. Unfortunately that is all the offense they could muster, and the Czech Republic would hold on for a 4-3 victory.
The tournament is now over for the Americans, who must be now questioning their choice for captain.
"The turning point was obviously when their captain took the penalty and we were able to score two goals," said Czech head coach Vladimir Ruzicka. "After that we focused on our neutral zone trap and most of the time we did that OK."
With four points in six games, Abdelkader did provide some offense; but failed to keep his reckless play under control. Earlier in the tournament, he was suspended one game for kneeing. He will probably also receive a suspension for his transgressions in this game, which he will serve the next time he represents the U.S. in international competition.