PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Mason Raymond (Cochrane, Alta./SC Bern, NLA) and Rene Bourque (Lac La Biche, Alta./Djurgårdens IF, SHL) scored power-play goals in the first period, but Canada’s Men’s Olympic Team dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to the Czech Republic on Saturday at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
The loss ends Canada’s 11-game Olympic winning streak; it had not been on the wrong end of a final score since a 5-3 preliminary-round defeat at the hands of the United States at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Wojtek Wolski (Toronto, Ont./Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL) gave Canada the lead with a gorgeous move in Round 2 of the shootout, only for Petr Koukal and Jan Kovar to respond on the second and third Czech attempts.
Maxim Noreau (Montreal, Que./SC Bern, NLA) was the final shooter for the Canadians; his backhand slipped past Czech goaltender Pavel Francouz but couldn’t beat the post, giving the Europeans the extra point.
Canada jumped into an early lead when Raymond redirected a feed from Linden Vey (Wakaw, Sask./ZSC Lions, NLA) just 73 seconds after the puck dropped, but Dominik Kubalik took advantage of a bouncing puck deep in the Canadian zone and beat goaltender Ben Scrivens (Spruce Grove, Alta./Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL) to the short-side to tie the game at 6:52.
Bourque restored the Canadian advantage with another man-advantage marker at 13:30, banging in a Noreau rebound from in close for his third goal in two games and sending Canada to the intermission up 2-1.
The Czechs responded quickly in the second period, tying the game on a Michal Jordan goal just 23 seconds in.
Canada controlled the play for much of the middle frame, and had its best chance to take back the lead on a 33-second 5-on-3 late in the period. Vey had the best Canadian chance, wiring his shot off the post.
A scoreless third period sent the game to overtime, where the Canadians again had the best scoring opportunity; Mat Robinson (Calgary, Alta./CSKA Moscow, KHL) broke in alone on Francouz, only to have the puck hop over his stick at the last second.
Canada finished with a 33-20 advantage in shots on goal, including 23-11 in the first 40 minutes.
It will close out the preliminary round Sunday (7:10 a.m. ET/4:10 a.m. PT), taking on host South Korea.
“Special teams continue to show to be a big difference in these games, so [the] power play needs to be strong, and kill [penalties] off when we get them. [The power play] is something that can dictate games, and something that we’re working on. We’re not trying to be complicated; [just] getting pucks to the net and converging. They’re going to be tight hockey games. We’ve got to stay focused, trust our process, and believe that’ll put us on the upper end in the end.”
Mason Raymond, who scored the first of Canada’s two power play goals of the night
“Overall we played really well, I mean, we controlled the game a lot, and we took it to them a good [portion] of the game. We’ve got to build off that, and we know what we can do in this dressing room. We came out hard and we played overall a pretty good game, just a couple of unlucky bounces on their goals. That’s the difference in these tournaments, is bounces. They didn’t go our way today, but we’ve got to keep our heads held high and re-set again for tomorrow. We have to come out hard against Korea, and then move on from there.”
“I thought it was a good game. I thought both teams played hard. The Czechs have a good team, we knew they had a good team so that didn’t surprise us; [they have] lots of skill, so it was the game we expected. Lots of parts of our game were good. We were consistent – we were a little slow in the first period, but we turned it around. Now we just move ahead; this one’s done. We don’t worry about it anymore, we just move ahead to the next one.”
Head coach Willie Desjardins’ thoughts on Saturday’s game
“It’s definitely disappointing. Not the situation we wanted to be in anyways, to be in [a shootout]. I’ve done that before, I thought it was going in, but I just pushed it wide or there was snow, but we don’t have to dwell on that, we can just move on to the next game now.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be a perfect tournament – you’re going to have highs and lows all the time, it’s how you manage those. For us, it’s about keeping our confidence – we outshot them drastically in the first two periods and it could have been a completely different game. Being in a shootout wasn’t the situation we wanted to be in, but we were there, it didn’t work out in our favour, but the guys played hard and we know what we can do.”
Maxim Noreau on hitting the post in the shootout and overcoming the disappointment of Saturday’s outcome