BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Petr Vrana turned aside each and every one of the 30 shots he faced, backstopping the Czech Republic to a 1-0 win over the United States on Monday afternoon at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge.
Kristian Reichel was the lone goal-scorer in the third 1-0 game in tournament history, and the first since Canada West edged Canada East in the semifinals of the 2012 tournament in Yarmouth, N.S.
It’s just the fourth win in 18 games at the tournament for the Czechs, and just the eighth loss in 41 for the Americans, who had won their past four tournament-openers by a combined 30-4.
The game was a battle of the goaltenders from the first drop of the puck; U.S. netminder Cayden Primeau went save-for-save with Vrana for more than 44 minutes, and finished with 34 stops as a hard-luck loser.
The Americans had a narrow advantage in shots on goal in an evenly-matched first period, outshooting the Czechs 10-9, but the European side came out firing in the second, directing 16 shots at Primeau.
The teams combined for 43 shots without a goal in the opening 40 minutes, but Reichel finally broke through 4:18 into the final frame; after quick puck movement off a won face-off, the son of former NHLer Robert Reichel blasted a one-timer past the blocker of Primeau for the eventual game-winner.
With the win, the Czech Republic moves into second place in Group B, tied with Canada East at three points but trailing the Canadians on the head-to-head tiebreaker after a 4-1 loss to East on Sunday.
The Czechs will wait for the end of preliminary-round play on Tuesday to find out when and who they’ll play next, while the U.S. closes out the round robin against Canada East on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET).
An American win in regulation time would leave all three teams in group with identical 1-1 records, and bring a tiebreaker into play to determine who goes straight to the semifinals, and who plays in the quarter-finals Wednesday.