CZECHS COME BACK IN THIRD, EDGE WEST FOR FIRST WJAC WIN
JASON LA ROSE
BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Vojtech Strondala and Jan Kern scored 59 seconds apart in the third period to tie the game and Strondala netted the game-winner in the shootout, giving the Czech Republic a 5-4 win over Canada West in an offensively-charged contest Thursday at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge.
The teams combined for 85 shots on goal through regulation and overtime, with the Canadians holding a 46-39 advantage.
Not surprisingly it was the goaltenders who stood out – the Czech duo of Tomas Vomacka and Daniel Dvorak, and Canadian netminder Matthew Radomsky (Winnipeg, Man./Steinbach, MJHL) combined to stop 78 shots, plus seven of 10 attempts in the shootout.
With the game on his stick in the fifth round, Strondala slowly worked his way in slowly before going five-hole on Radomsky to get the Czechs into the win column and put them in the driver’s seat for a semifinal spot.
The Canadians looked to be in charge with a two-goal lead and less than 13 minutes to go, but Strondala knocked in a pass from Jan Bambula to get the Czechs within one at 7:13 and Kern found a loose puck in a scramble in front of Radomsky to bring the Europeans even at 8:15, sending the game to overtime.
The Czechs struck for an early lead; Zdenek Sedlak beat Radomsky with a quick shot off a set-up from Bambula just 76 seconds after the puck dropped.
Harrison Blaisdell (Abbotsford, B.C./Chilliwack, BCHL) answered for West three minutes later, poking in a loose puck that had squeezed through Vomacka, and Mathieu Gosselin (Quebec City, Que./Merritt, BCHL) forced a turnover behind the net before setting up Riley Hughes (Westwood, Mass./Victoria, BCHL) to put the Canadians up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Austin Wong (Cochrane, Alta./Okotoks, AJHL) pushed the lead to two just 31 seconds into the second period, snapping in a shot from the slot and chasing Vomacka, who gave way to Dvorak after allowing three goals on 14 shots.
That looked to be the score heading to the second intermission, but Bambula banged in a Strondala rebound for a power-play goal in the final minute of the middle frame, making it a 3-2 game through two.
Blaisdell added a second goal on a Canadian power play at 6:27 of the third period, going skate-to-stick before swatting a backhand past Dvorak, but the Czechs were even less than two minutes after that.
West captain T.J. Lloyd (Lloydminster, Alta./Spruce Grove, AJHL) had the best Canadian chance in overtime, ringing a shot off the cross-bar, and Radomsky turned away a Lukas Rousek breakaway as time expired to get the game to a shootout.
Bambula and Alex Newhook (St. John’s, N.L./Victoria, BCHL) traded goals in the first two rounds before Strondala ended it.
The Czechs are right back at it Friday night in the prelim finale, looking to secure their semifinal spot against Canada East (7 p.m. MT), while West won’t see the ice again until its Saturday semifinal.