In what could only be described as the best game played so far in the tournament, Canada defeated the Czech Republic this afternoon in Halifax, 4-0, behind spectacular goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury.
The 10,300 fans were at times deafening in their support of the team and went into frenzy late in the first period when Captain Canada, Scottie Upshall, notched the first goal of the game. The power play goal was the first separation between the two teams, who before it appeared to be playing with an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better mentality. After the game, Head Coach Marc Habscheid commented on the importance of the goal: “That first goal removed some of the frustration for us that came with hitting three posts. That’s why Scottie is our captain, too. He waited out the goalie. It’s what you’d call a goal-scorer’s goal.”
The one-upmanship of the first period included both teams hitting posts, both teams unleashing furious hits, both teams creating numerous scoring chances, and both goaltenders flashing the leather. Czech goalie Martin Falter fought nobly in his goaltending dual with Fleury and earned player of the game honours for his team.
Jordin Tootoo and Kyle Wellwood scored highlight-reel goals in the second period on passes from Jay McClemment and Upshall, respectively. Both goals came on the break, and Wellwood’s was especially spectacular because he shot the puck from his knees while falling. “I just stayed with it,” he said exuberantly of his 3-0 goal.
Before the game Habscheid said he needed another look at Fleury to assess the young goaltender, and the adopted Nova Scotian product did not disappoint. With an array of saves that ranged from mundane to magnificent, Fleury was able to keep the Czechs in check. After two games his goals against average is an impressive 1.00. Habsheid’s review of his netminder was nothing but positive: “He’s so quick and agile, and he made some really key saves. That’s why he’s regarded as well as he is.”
Once again Canada’s power play was just that—powerful. Upshall’s goal came as Lukas Krajicek’s penalty expired, and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored with the extra man on a rebound off an Ian White point shot in the third period. Parenteau’s goal was the exact duplicate of a chance he received in the first period when he shot White’s rebound wide of the open cage.
Canada’s line of Tootoo, McClemment, and Daniel Paille played a big role for the second straight game, throwing off the Czechs with body-checking that echoed through the pulsating arena. Neither player steps onto the ice without instigating some sort of punishment, a fact that is not lost on their opponents. “We just want to hit early and often,” said Paille after the game. “Tootoo and myself aren’t the only ones; there are lots of guys who like to hit.” Tootoo’s goal and his insatiable on-ice presence earned him player of the game honours for Canada.
Now 2-0, Canada moves on to play Germany tomorrow afternoon at 4:10 in Halifax, in the only game scheduled for the Metro Centre. The Czechs next play on December 30 against Finland.
Canada and Czech Republic Ready for Showdown
After one game at the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship, some similarities are evident between the Czech Republic and the host Canadian squad. Both teams skated to comfortable first wins in front of enthusiastic crowds, but both teams are expecting a much tougher second game.
Canada and the Czech Republic have a long and bitter history with each other, culminating perhaps when a Dominik Hasek-led Czech team eliminated Wayne Gretzky and Team Canada in the semi-finals of the Nagano Olympics in 1998. Since then, the Czechs have been riding a hockey high, winning three successive World Championships to a pair of World Junior Championships in 2000 and 2001. A disappointing 2002, however, saw the nation slump badly in international competition, but these Czechs are bent on reclaiming their hockey supremacy.
The Czechs looked comfortable—though not dominant--in a 3-0 defeat of Germany in its first game, one that saw the Germans play well, but not well enough. They were outshot by the Czech Republic 30-15. The game featured good play by Jiri Hudler, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, who led his team with a goal and an assist. The matchup against Germany also featured a solid performance by netminder Martin Falter, who looked good when he had to, and might have won himself the opportunity to start against Canada over expected starter Lukas Mensator.
Canada skated to an equally easy victory in its first game, thumping an underpowered Team Sweden 8-2. The ease of the victory allowed Canadian Coach Marc Habscheid to rest some Canadian players with nagging injuries as the game went on. Jordin Tootoo, long suffering from a groin strain, saw only a few shifts in the third period, as did Derek Roy, who was banged up twice on ice in the game itself. That contest also featured six power-play goals and one short-handed goal for the Canadians, a dominant performance by the team.
Two things are certain about this afternoon’s game: first, both teams can expect a very loud, one-sided capacity crowd of 10,300 fans in the Halifax Metro Centre, ready to cheer on their hometown boys. Second, both teams are in for a much tighter affair when Canada and the Czech Republic take to the ice this afternoon at 3:00pm local time.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications