CANADA EAST SCORES EARLY, BEATS CZECHS IN WJAC OPENER
JASON LA ROSE
BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Finn Evans (Toronto, Ont./St. Michael’s, OJHL) and Charles Levesque (Russell, Ont./Hawkesbury, CCHL) had a goal and an assist apiece, pacing Canada East to a 4-1 win over the Czech Republic in the tournament opener Sunday at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge.
It’s the second year in a row the Canadians have opened with a victory; the easterners improved to 7-4 all-time in curtain-raisers at the tournament, and 4-1 in all-time meetings with the Czechs.
Nic Mucci (Mississauga, Ont./Wellington, OJHL) and Vincent Chapleau (Longueuil, Que./Longueuil, LHJQ) had the other goals for Canada East, while Logan Johnston (Fredericton, N.B./Dieppe, MHL) – the third member of the line with Evans and Levesque – chipped in with two assists.
A swarming start by the Canadians led to a first-minute penalty shot after a Czech defender covered the puck in his crease, but goaltender Jan Ruzicka used a poke-check to turn away Nick Lalonde (Brooklin, Ont./Cornwall, CCHL).
Mucci got the scoring started not long after that, picking off a clearing attempt in the corner and squeezing a shot past Ruzicka from a sharp angle to put East ahead 1-0 just 2:54 in.
It took until the 9:19 mark of the second period for the Canadians to double their lead when Levesque knocked in the rebound of an Evans backhand, and Evans drove to the net to jam in a loose puck seven minutes after that for a 3-0 advantage.
A charging major to Bobby Dow (Ottawa, Ont./Kemptville, CCHL) gave the Czechs hope late in the middle frame, and Adam Kubik needed just nine seconds of the power play to get the European side on the board, but that would be the lone puck to beat Canadian netminder Stefano Cantali (Montreal, Que./Longueuil, LHJQ).
Chapleau capped the scoring five minutes into the third period, finishing off a two-on-one with Luke Keenan (Courtice, Ont./Whitby, OJHL) with Canada East on the power play.
The Canadians will enjoy a day off Monday before closing out the preliminary round against the United States on Tuesday night (7:30 p.m. MT), while the Czechs are back at it Monday when they face the Americans (3:30 p.m. MT).