The U.S. men's hockey team was designed to be fast and hard to play against, and it was all of that in the preliminary round of the Sochi Olympic tournament, sandwiching a dramatic shootout victory over Russia between routs of Slovakia and Slovenia.
But as many bruises as the U.S. players inflicted with their in-your-face style, as many vapor trails as they left by capitalizing on their speed on the wide international ice surface, those were only preludes to what they must do as the knockout phase begins.
The real test, center Ryan Kesler correctly said, begins Wednesday in the quarterfinals, in which the U.S. will face a Czech Republic team that's stocked with veterans and can score.
"We're confident, but we know we've still got a lot of work to do," Kesler said. "It's win or go home."
In other quarterfinals Wednesday, top-seeded Sweden will face upstart Slovenia, Finland will face host Russia, and surprising Latvia will face Canada.
The Czechs beat Slovakia 5-3 Tuesday in a qualification playoff game. Jaromir Jagr, who turned 42 last week and played on the Czechs' 1998 gold-medal team, had an assist as the Czechs pulled out to a 4-0 lead and then held off a late charge by Slovakia, which left Sochi without a win.
Roman Cervenka, who played for the NHL's Calgary Flames last season before leaving for Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, scored two goals. NHL players Ales Hemsky (Edmonton), David Krejci (Boston) and Tomas Plekanec (Montreal) also scored to support a 29-save effort by goaltender Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.
Latvia earned its first trip to the quarterfinals with a 3-1 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday, showcasing a tight defensive game that could have a small chance against powerful Canada. Russia beat Norway 4-0, and Slovenia defeated Austria 4-0.
The U.S. and Canada have chosen to sit the goaltenders that played in the 2010 gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics. The Americans plan to start Jonathan Quick instead of Ryan Miller against the Czech Republic, and Canada will go with Carey Price instead of Roberto Luongo against Latvia.
NHL not set on 2018: The possibility of NHL players competing in the 2018 Olympics won't be discussed by the league during the Sochi Games. "It's not anything we're focused on dealing with right now," commissioner Gary Bettman said.
The league and the union have allowed their players to be in the Olympics since 1998. The 2018 Winter Games will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"None of this moves forward, if it moves forward at all, if the players don't want to play," Bettman said. "If the players ever said, we're not interested, we're not going to force them to go."
Women's hockey: Rene Fasel, the head of the sport's international governing body, said women's hockey isn't in danger of being kicked out of the Winter Olympics because of a lack of competition. The sport has been dominated by the United States and Canada, who will play for the gold medal Thursday for the fourth time in five Winter Games.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.