CZECHS RIDE HOT GOALTENDING TO WIN OVER U.S., FIRST IN GROUP B
JASON LA ROSE
TRURO, N.S. – Adam Brizgala was spectacular in a 37-save performance, Ondrej Chrtek netted the game-winning goal with 5:13 remaining and the Czech Republic doubled up the United States 4-2 on Monday afternoon to claim first place in Group B at the 2017 World Junior A Challenge.
It is the first time in the six appearances the Czechs have won their group; they won’t play again until the semifinals on Thursday (time and opponent to be determined).
Chrtek finished with a pair of goals, while Jan Hladonik and Matyas Zelingr added one apiece for the Czech Republic, which scored twice shorthanded in the win.
Hladonik opened the scoring with the Europeans down a man midway through the first period, finishing a two-on-one with David Kofron by beating a sprawling Ryan Bischel, who made 21 stops in the U.S. goal.
The Americans needed just 15 seconds to reply, with Sam Hentges driving off the right wing before roofing a short-side shot past Brizgala for a power-play goal.
That would be it for offence until the final minute of the second period; Chrtek and Kofron broke in on another shorthanded odd-man rush, with Chrtek tapping in a rebound to put the Czechs up 2-1 after 40 minutes.
The final frame was a shooting gallery for the Americans, who directed 20 shots at Brizgala.
Jack Dugan pulled the defending gold medallists even just shy of the midway mark of the third, finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play with Clayton Phillips and Blake McLaughlin, but that would be the last puck to elude the Czech netminder.
Brizgala even earned an assist on the winner, kicking away a Chase Blackmun chance with a lightning-quick left-pad stop before Chrtek raced the other way, cut into the middle of the ice and found room up and over the glove of Bischel.
The Americans pressed in the final minutes with Bischel on the bench, but Zelingr hit the empty net from in front of his own goal to seal the second win for the Czechs over the U.S. in as many years.
The U.S. will close out its preliminary-round schedule on Tuesday night against Canada West (7:30 p.m. AT), with the teams playing for quarter-final positioning.