Because of the frequent changes to the Olympic women's hockey tournament format, the United States has actually never played a quarterfinal at the Winter Games. At the previous six Olympics with women's hockey, the U.S. and Canada advanced directly to the semifinals or the gold medal game after group play.
With a new 10-team women's tournament at the Beijing Games, eight teams qualified for the knockout stage, meaning one more game for the Americans to get through in their quest to defend their 2018 gold medal.
Their opponent, the Czech Republic, has never played an Olympic quarterfinal either — because this is the first time the Czechs have qualified for the Winter Games. The Czech Republic's best finish in the world championships was sixth in 2016 and 2019. The U.S. has won nine world championships, and finished second 11 times.
Time/TV: Thursday, 10:10 p.m., USA Network. The game will also be live streamed on the Peacock premium tier, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.
How they got here: The U.S. went 3-1 in group play, losing only to Canada. The Americans outscored their opponents 20-6. The Czech Republic beat China 3-1, defeated Sweden 3-1, lost to Denmark 3-2 and lost to Japan 3-2 in a shootout to finish second in Group B.
Players to watch: Alex Carpenter, one of the final cuts from the 2018 team, leads the U.S. with four goals, and Hilary Knight and Jesse Compher have three each. Facing that offensive attack will be 25-year-old goalie Klara Peslarova, who has started in net for the Czechs since she was 17. She has a .942 save percentage and a 1.18 goals-against average at the Olympics.
Minnesota connections: The U.S. team has nine players either from Minnesota or who played college hockey in Minnesota, including eight current or former Gophers: Megan Bozek, Hannah Brandt, Dani Cameranesi, Amanda Kessel, Abbey Murphy, Kelly Pannek, Lee Stecklein and Grace Zumwinkle. Goalie Maddie Rooney of Andover went to Minnesota Duluth. The Czechs also have some Minnesota college ties of their own. Forward Katerina Mrazova played at Minnesota Duluth from 2013-17, and forward Klara Hymlarova is a junior at St. Cloud State. In all, the Czech team has 15 players who have competed on NCAA teams.