The quarter-final round of the World Junior A Challenge got underway on Wednesday, with two goals by Oakville Blades star Tyler Rollo leading the way as Canada East beat the Czech Republic 3-1 on Wednesday evening.
After Canada West easily took down the Czech’s 7-3 on Sunday, there was an expectation that Canada East would look fairly competitive on Wednesday. Despite some early chances in the first few minutes, however, it wouldn’t be the host country finding the back of the net first. Nicholas Latinovich, who had a solid game for Canada East on Monday before a late game defensive meltdown, would be at the unfortunate end of a weird situation when his pass attempt went off his own defenders leg. The puck then made its way to Jiri Karafiat, who was just in the right spot to spin and knock the puck just past the Orangeville Flyers goaltender, giving the Czech’s the 1-0 lead within the first five minutes of the contest.
Canada didn’t get many solid chances of their own, instead allowing two breakaways mid-way through the period. Taking four minor penalties in the opening period didn’t really help their cause, either, resulting in the Czech’s leading the shot count 9-7 after 20 minutes. They did actually get a solid scoring chance while shorthanded with two minutes to go, but Maxime St. Pierre’s shot wasn’t enough to beat the goal line after making its way past goaltender Josef Korenar.
It looked like Canadian penalties were going to be the name of the game, but it would end up being a Czech penalty that would change the pace of the contest. With Tomas Havranek in the box, Josh Dickenson would take a shot on net, only to have Korenar shut the door. The Czech netminder couldn’t do much about the rebound, however, as Lucas Batt was right there at the slot to fire a hard wrist shot into the back of the net, tying the game up at one apiece.
With 9:44 seconds left, Canada, desperate to break the tie, got a huge goal from their first line centre. After Batt couldn’t beat Korenar, Oakville Blades forward Tyler Rollo picked up the puck and absolutely blew it past the Czech goaltender, giving the Canadians the 2-1 lead. Rollo, an OHL draft pick by the Barrie Colts, had shown good chemistry with Batt and fellow Blades forward Josh Kosack throughout the tournament, with Rollo’s first goal signaling his fourth point of the tournament following a two-point performance against Switzerland in the opening game.
Rollo’s incredible third-period performance wasn’t done. With time winding down on the clock, Kosack sent the puck right over to his OJHL teammate, who scored a very similar goal to his first to take the two-goal lead.
The advantage would shrink with about two minutes left in the period. While playing four-on-four hockey, Kristian Reichel, son of former NHLer and Czech assistant coach Robert Reichel, would get one past Latinovich for the 3-2 goal late in the battle. The goal helped spark a late Czech rush while playing with the extra man
With the win, Canada East will meet Canada West in the semi-final contest on Thursday evening at 7:00 pm in Cobourg. In Whitby, Russia and the United States battle it out for a chance to play in the finals, with the Americans winning all but one game they’ve played since 2011.
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