The Czech Republic were able to grab their first victory of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge on the final day of the rpreliminary round, beating Canaada White in a close 3-2 match on Tuesday.
In a rare first period snoozefest between to start off the day, both teams failed to actually find a way to score in the first period. It was, however, a good indication on the strong goaltending both teams employed, and after shaky results at both ends of the ice at different points in the tournament, it was good to see the goalies get a chance to shine. Jakub Skarek had to look good early, as the Czech’s defense was getting controlled early by the quick skating Canadian offense. At the other end, Matthew Welsh had 11 saves in a second half that saw the Canadian netminder keep busy, looking good after a solid effort in net during a comeback effort over Canada Black on Sunday.
It would take a while, but at the 3:57 mark of the first, Nick Suzuki went top shelf on Skarek to take the 1-0 lead for Canada. The play all started when Gabe Vilardi, one of the better players in the tournament, caused a turnover in the defensive zone before setting up Ryan McLeod. A quick skater with the Mississauga Steelheads, McLeod beat out the slower Czech defense before setting up Suzuki, who knows a thing or two about scoring.
The Czech’s were hungry for a tie. Their top line would find their first goal of the contest after Filip Zadina, regarded as one of the better talents at the Under-17’s, rushed to the net in an attempt to get a wrap-around. It didn’t work, but Matyas Svoboda was right there for the rebound to knot things up at one apiece near the mid-way point of the game.
Potentially the nicest goal of the entire tournament came with three minutes to go in the period. After Jan Kern forced Ian Mitchell to give up the puck in the Czech zone, talented dangler Martin Necas would dance around a Canadian defenseman before beating Welsh near his left pad to make it 2-1. Necas was the same guy who scored an incredible shootout goal yesterday against Canada Black, using a trick made famous by Pavel Datsuyk to extend the skills competition for a few more rounds.
To nobodies surprise, Necas would find the net once again. Easily one of the better players on the ice, Necas found a small opening over a diving attempt by Welsh, giving the Czech’s the important two goal lead. Welsh was still trying to recover from a couple of good stops on the top Czech line, but he wasn’t able to get his glove over in time on a rebound that led to Necas’ goal.
Special teams have proven to be the name of the game throughout much of the tournament, so Canada used their power-play to take advantage of this fact. Jachym Kondelik sitting off for goaltender interference, James Hamblin used his lethal wrist shot to pick a tough angle on Skarek for the 2-1 goal with about eight minutes to go. Canada hoped that would result in a chance at a comeback, but when it was all said and done, the Czech’s were strong enough to hold on to the 3-2 lead and grab their first victory of the tournament.
Barring a big victory by Canada Black over USA tonight, the Czech Republic should most likely face either Russia or Finland at 9:00 pm EST on Thursday in the quarter-finals. For Canada White, the team will face whoever the Czech’s dont face, also at the later start time.
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