DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – Matej Morong scored two of the four Czech Republic goals in the first 13 minutes, and the Czechs held off a wild Canada West comeback attempt to earn a 4-3 win Thursday and a semifinal spot at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge.
The victory completes the playoff puzzle – the Czechs will join the United States, Russia and Canada East in the final four, while Canada West will be the team on the outside looking in.
Morong finished with three points for the European side, which got 23 saves from Jan Skorpik.
The opening 40 minutes were a tale of two periods, with each team dominating a frame.
The Czechs owned the first, chasing Matthew Davis (Calgary, Alta./Spruce Grove, AJHL) – who posted a shutout in a 1-0 win over Russia on Wednesday – before the midway mark of the period.
Filip Prikryl needed just 2:29 to start the scoring, tapping in a rebound after a David Jindra shot bounced off a Canadian defenceman and then Davis in front of the net.
Morong got his first at 6:48, beating Davis under the arm, and Daniel Poizl floated a point shot through a maze of bodies and past Davis at 9:34 to end the West netminder’s night after just eight shots.
Morong welcomed Carter Gylander (Beaumont, Alta./Sherwood Park, AJHL) with the 4-0 goal at 12:27, rifling a one-timer over the glove.
The story was much different in the second period for Canada West, which struck for three goals in six-and-a-half minutes to turn a runaway into a nail-biter.
Kyle Johnson (Port Moody, B.C./Trail, BCHL) finally got the Canadians on the board at 12:22, finding space behind the Czech defence and going five-hole on the backhand to beat Skorpik, and he found Philippe Lapointe (Hinsdale, Ill./Trail, BCHL) alone at the side of the net for a power-play goal less than two minutes later.
Carter Savoie (St. Albert, Alta./Sherwood Park, AJHL) made it a one-goal game late in the second stanza, sneaking a low shot past Skorpik to give the Canadians all the momentum heading to the third.
But they could not find the tying goal despite dominating puck possession in the final 20 minutes – including a pair of power plays in the last 10 – and will miss out on the semifinals for just the third time in the 14-year history of the tournament.
The Czechs, who sit second in the standings with one day of prelim play to go, wrap up their round-robin schedule against Canada East on Friday night (7 p.m. MT).
“During the first intermission we just talked about a lot of the same things we have been talking about with this team the entire tournament. It has kind of been a tale of two different hockey teams at times for us. If you compare how we played against the United States to our game against [Canada] East, it was almost like we were two different teams and it was the same thing tonight against the Czechs.
“We really do have a great group. It is really tough on the older players that are not going to get another chance at this, and even some of our younger player may never get to experience this again. When you look at [Massimo] Rizzo, [Philippe] Lapointe and [Brendan] Budy, their compete level says a lot about them as players. There was a lot of pressure on them to work with some of our younger players and getting them to believe in themselves. It’s always tough to not move on to the semifinals, but I think that belief in ourselves just took a little too long to come out.”
– Team Canada West head coach Joe Martin (Kingston, Ont./Alberni Valley, BCHL) discusses his team’s performance and takeaways from the World Junior A Challenge