PARDUBICE, Czech Republic, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- The United States beat the defending champion Czech Republic 3-1 Tuesday in the opener of the world junior hockey championships on goals by Chad Larose, Kris Vernansk and Christopher Higgins.
The United States will play Sweden in another Group A game Thursday.
"I have a lot of respect for the Czechs and what they've accomplished in the last few years at the tournament, so to win this game is a big achievement for our team," said head coach Keith Allain.
Team USA opened up a 2-0 lead in the first period against the host Czech Republic. Kris Vernarsky scored the first goal firing a shot past Czech goaltender Michal Fikrt at the 7:26 mark.
LaRose set the tone in the opening moments of the second period, giving the U.S. a commanding 3-0 lead 19 seconds into the period as Vernarsky found him open in the Czech zone setting up a race to the net, resulting in the third U.S. goal.
The only Czech goal came in the closing minutes of the second period when Tomas Plekanec beat U.S. goaltender Jason Bacashihua.
The U.S. held the Czech Republic to only five shots in the third period. Bacashihua finished the game with 30 saves on 31 shots.
In the other opening game of the round-robin tournament Canada defeated France 15-0 behind three goals and four assists by Mike Cammalleri. Canada faces Switzerland on Thursday.