Canada struggled in the final 40 minutes of play, but two late first period goals were all it took in a eventual 3-1 win over the Czech Republic at the Under-18 World Championships.
Czech goalie Josef Korenar was the much busier of the two goalies in the first period of the game, stopping 10 shots from a strong Canadian offense who scored ten goals the night before. Korenar, who lost both games he played for the Czech’s at the World Junior A Challenge back in December, made 43 saves in a 4-3 loss to the Finns to start the tournament, proving himself to be a strong competitor in the process.
Despite a good start, the Czech’s would trail 2-0 after 20 minutes. Dante Fabbro would credit for an assist with just over two minutes left in the period, making a great pass to newcomer Brett Howden, who scored on a great shot. Howden, a member of the Moose Jaw Warriors, joined Canada today after his WHL squad was eliminated by the playoffs, becoming the second Howden after his brother Quinton to play for Canada at the Under-18’s.
Then, a minute later, the Canadians would score again. This time, Fabbro would grab another assist after finding David Quenneville at the point. The Medicine Hat Tiger would make a strong play after faking a slap shot, eventually ripping it past Korenar to make it 2-0 heading into the intermission.
While Howden was probably wishing he still had a chance at the WHL title, he surely didn’t disappoint for Canada. After Mason Shaw’s rebound was deflected back into the slot, Howden drove to the net hard and beat Korenar with a quick shot, giving his team the 3-0 lead after 5:17 in the first.
The Czech’s actually looked like the better team in the second, despite not finding a way to beat Evan Fitzpatrick. The top ranked Canadian goalie heading into the NHL Draft, Fitzpatrick made made tremendous stops, including a big breakaway stop on 2018 NHL Draft option Filip Zadina. Fitzpatrick made a whopping 22 saves in the second period, preserving Canada’s 3-0 lead and keeping a perfect record heading into the final frame.
The Czech’s would finally find a way to beat Fitzpatrick on the power play in the third. Future Czech star Zadina was at the right place at the right time with the extra man, banging home a rebound after 2:35 of play in the final period to score their first goal of the game. They hoped they’d be able to take advantage of some weak Canadian play in the third, but Fitzpatrick and company was able to hold on and secure the 3-1 victory.
With the win, Canada stays perfect heading into game three against Slovakia on Monday at 8:30 pm EST. The Czech Republic will get a day off as well before taking on Denmark on Monday, a game that will see one of the teams battling for their first win, assuming Finland beats Denmark on Sunday.
Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.