Day three of the World Junior Hockey Championships in Helsinki, Finland began with the Czech Republic getting a goal out of David Pastrnak to help beat Slovakia 2-0 on Monday.
Even without Pavel Zacha in the lineup, who was a scratch due to an injury from the opening game against Russia, the Czech’s were easily the better tea, in the game that opened up Monday’s action. In fact, all five shots in the opening ten minutes were taken by the Czech’s, with Slovakia’s first chance coming from defenseman David Sklenička at the 13 minute mark. It was a slow start for the Slovaks, who, coming off a tight 4-2 win over Belarus on Sunday, beat the Czech’s 3-0 last year in the quarter-finals before going on to win the bronze medal in Toronto, Canada.
Easily the biggest name heading into the contest, all eyes were on David Pastrňák in his first game of the tournament. Loaned by the Boston Bruins, Pastrňák was registered just in time for the second game of the season after playing two games with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Participating in his third World Juniors, Pastrňák has posted ten points in ten games split over two previous tournaments to make him one of the most dangerous players in the game.
New York Rangers prospect Adam Huska was very solid in the early going, taking a bulk of the scoring chances while making some big saves with his quick legs. A fighter, Huska faced much tougher action against the better Czech offense than he did on Sunday with Belarus and looked very good when needed. His best save sequence came within the first minute of the second when he had to get across to make two big pad saves on Juraj Mily, who was the first Slovak player to take two shots in the battle.
Finally, after 37 minutes of scoreless hockey, the Czech’s found their way onto the scoresheet for the first time of the game. With Juraj Siska in the box, Pastrnak scored on a fantastic shot after a screen in front allowed him to take a quick wrister that beat Huska over the glove to make it 1-0 Czech Republic.
With Slovakia failing to do much of anything, the Czech Republic would go take the 2-0 lead with the game winding down. Filip Hronek would get the original shot on net, firing the puck towards the net, only to be stopped by Huska. However, Dominik Latakos was right there to deflect it, with the puck bouncing off his skate and off a defender before crossing the goal line to give the Czech’s the 2-0 advantage heading into the home stretch.
Both teams will have the day off on Tuesday before returning to the rink on Wednesday, with the Czech’s starting things off with a 7:00 am ET start against Belarus kicking things off. Slovakia will then have to battle against Finland at 11:00 am, a match that should be closer than expected. Slovakia will then end things on New Years Eve with a 7:00 am game against Russia before the Czech’s get their own meeting with Finland, this time playing their first late game thanks to an 11:00 am puck drop.
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