BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Tomas Havranek tied the game with 1.5 seconds left and Kristian Reichel scored the lone goal in the shootout, sending the Czech Republic to the semifinals at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge with a thrilling 4-3 win over Canada West on Wednesday night.
It’s the first time in five trips to the tournament the Czechs have advanced to the final four, and the first time they have won multiple games in one year; they blanked the U.S. 1-0 on Monday in preliminary-round play.
They will face Canada East in the second semifinal on Thursday night (7:30 p.m. MT).
After the first five shooters had missed, Reichel cut in from the left wing before wiring a quick wrist shot over the glove of Canadian goaltender Matthew Galajda (Aurora, Ont./Victoria, BCHL) for the eventual winner.
Carter Turnbull (Nanaimo, B.C./Powell River, BCHL) led the way in regulation time with a goal and two assists for the Canadians, who trailed 2-0 after two periods but were even by the 40-second mark of the third.
The Czechs quickly quieted a pro-Canadian crowd at R.J. Lalonde Arena, with Radovan Pavlik burying his own rebound behind Galajda just past the seven-minute mark, and Daniel Kurovsky made it 2-0 just over four minutes later, redirecting a point shot from David Kvasnicka past Galajda.
Both teams came out firing, combining for 51 shots on goal through two periods, but Galajda and Czech counterpart Petr Kvaca kept the game at 2-0 through 40 minutes, although a pair of minors with 20 seconds left in the middle frame gave the Canadians a 100-second five-on-three advantage to open the third.
It took only 14 seconds for West to finally break through, as Cale Makar (Calgary, Alta./Brooks, AJHL) wired a one-timer past Kvaca to cut the deficit to one and end the Czech netminder’s tournament-opening shutout streak at just over 100 minutes.
Still enjoying the man advantage, the Canadians struck again quickly to tie the game, with Jordan Kawaguchi (Abbotsford, B.C./Chilliwack, BCHL) redirecting in a shot from Makar just 22 seconds after the first goal.
The power play struck again with 5:16 left; right off a won face-off, Turnbull cleaned up the rebound of a shot from Kawaguchi and gave West its first lead.
The Czechs had one last chance on an offensive zone face-off with 4.8 seconds to go, and Reichel won the draw back to Havranek, whose hard one-timer squeezed through Galajda and trickled across the goal-line.
Overtime failed to produce a winner, leading to a five-person shootout.
Galajda and Kvaca traded saves through the first two rounds before Reichel gave the Czechs the only goal they needed.
Riese Gaber (Gilbert Plains, Man./Dauphin, MJHL) had the last chance for the Canadians, but his attempt rolled off the end of his stick and harmlessly into the corner, sending the Czechs pouring off the bench in celebration.
Canada West will conclude its tournament Friday when it takes on Switzerland in the fifth-place game (3:30 p.m. MT).
Cale Makar, Team Canada West captain, on a disappointing quarter-final loss:
“One of the toughest ways to go out in this tournament, knowing that we battled back so hard. We just didn’t get opportunities. We weren’t getting pucks to the net, and we weren’t getting high-quality scoring chances. Once we started the third period we got a couple goals on the power play and got the tempo going, and set the pace for the rest of the game. But at the end of the day, we’re left looking at fifth place and that wasn’t where we wanted to be.”
Barry Wolff, Team Canada West head coach, on coming up a few seconds short of a win, and getting ready for the fifth-place game:
“We had our opportunities, but what a way to lose [the lead], with four seconds left. Just unfortunate. We’ll let this go for tonight, and we’ll regroup tomorrow and have a fun skate. There’s a lot of pride on the line [in the fifth-place game], and there are a lot of scouts in the stands; these guys have a great chance to showcase themselves.”