BRECLAV, Czech Republic – Calen Addison (Brandon, Man./Lethbridge, WHL) scored the game-winning goal on a first period power play, leading Canada’s National Men’s Summer Under-18 Team to a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in a pre-tournament game Saturday ahead of the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.
Akil Thomas (Toronto, Ont./Niagara, OHL) and Aidan Dudas (Parry Sound, Ont./Owen Sound, OHL) opened and closed the scoring, respectively, for the Canadians, who outshot the Czechs 32-15 and were a perfect nine-for-nine on the penalty kill.
Thomas got the Canadians on the scoreboard first just shy of the six-minute mark, only for Libor Zabransky to reply for the tournament co-hosts less than three minutes later.
But that would be the lone puck to beat the Canadian goaltending tandem of Alexis Gravel (St-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Que./Halifax, QMJHL) and Olivier Rodrigue (Chicoutimi, Que./Drummondville, QMJHL). Gravel got the start, turning away six of the seven shots he faced, before Rodrigue stopped all eight directed his way.
Addison gave the Canadians the lead for good late in first, poking in a loose puck on the man advantage.
Canada held a one-sided 15-5 edge in shots on goal in the second period, but neither team could find the back of the net, sending the boys in red and white to the final frame up a goal.
Tempers flared in the third, with players from both teams sent to the dressing room early, and the Canadians gifted the Czech Republic four power plays in the final 12 minutes, but kept the European side at bay.
Dudas added an insurance marker with 6:33 to go, providing the final margin of victory.
Canada will travel to Bratislava, Slovakia, for its preliminary-round games at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, beginning with a Monday match-up against Russia (9:30 a.m. ET/6:30 a.m. PT).
“I thought we played a good first game; the guys came out and played hard. Overall, it was a real good teachable game. There are some areas we need to improve on, and we can take the positives from tonight into our game against Russia.”
– Head coach Brent Kisio on his impressions of Canada’s game and play
“It was a good game, and a good opportunity to get familiar with the line combinations. It was good to realize how penalties can affect the game, and how we need to be smarter about taking penalties.”
– Akil Thomas discusses the Canadian experience in front of the Czech crowd, and pulling out a win despite a penalty-rich game
Canada has won gold 20 times in 25 years of summer under-18 competition and plays in Group B this year with Finland, Russia, and Slovakia; Group A consists of the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.