Team Canada West has already booked their ticket to the World Junior A Challenge semifinal, but a loss to the Czech Republic in Thursday night’s final preliminary round game has coaches taking a second look at their game plan.
“For us to get prepared for the semis, we have to make sure that we dial in to the coaching plan that we have here. We have to get 22 guys going,” said Rick Swan, head coach for Team Canada West.
Harrison Blaisdell (Chilliwack Chiefs, BCHL) posted a two-goal night in an offensively-charged contest, but it was the Czech Republic that earned a 5-4 shootout win.
Czech Republic players Vojtech Strondala and Jan Kern scored 59 seconds apart in the third period to tie the game and Strondala netted the game-winner in the shootout.
“We wanted to build momentum going into the semifinal because we know that test is going to be tremendous for us. Again, it’s playing our way, the right way, playing the Western way and that’s 200-foot hockey. I think we deviated from that game a little bit and we certainly made it a more difficult than it should have been here tonight for us against a very good Czech team,” said Swan.
The teams combined for 85 shots on goal through regulation and overtime, with the Canadians holding a 46-39 advantage.
Not surprisingly it was the goaltenders who stood out – the Czech duo of Tomas Vomacka and Daniel Dvorak, and Canadian netminder Matthew Radomsky (Winnipeg, Man./Steinbach, MJHL) combined to stop 78 shots, plus seven of 10 attempts in the shootout.
With the game on his stick in the fifth round, Strondala slowly worked his way in slowly before going five-hole on Radomsky to get the Czechs into the win column and put them in the driver’s seat for a semifinal spot.
— World Junior A Challenge (@HC_WJAC) December 14, 2018
The Czechs struck for an early lead; Zdenek Sedlak beat Radomsky with a quick shot off a set-up from Bambula just 76 seconds after the puck dropped in the first period.
Blaisdell answered for West three minutes later, poking in a loose puck that had squeezed through Vomacka, with an asset to David Silye (Penticton Vees, BCHL). Mathieu Gosselin (Merritt Centennials, BCHL) forced a turnover behind the net before setting up Riley Hughes (Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL) to put the Canadians up 2-1 after 20 minutes.
Austin Wong (Okotoks, AJHL) pushed the lead to two just 31 seconds into the second period, snapping in a shot from the slot and chasing Vomacka, who gave way to Dvorak after allowing three goals on 14 shots.
That looked to be the score heading to the second intermission, but Bambula banged in a Strondala rebound for a power-play goal in the final minute of the middle frame, making it a 3-2 game through two.
Blaisdell added a second goal on a Canadian power play at 6:27 of the third period, going skate-to-stick before swatting a backhand past Dvorak, but the Czechs tied it up less than two minutes after that.
West captain T.J. Lloyd (Spruce Grove, AJHL) had the best Canadian chance in overtime, ringing a shot off the cross-bar, and Radomsky turned away a Lukas Rousek breakaway as time expired to get the game to a shootout.
Bambula and Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL) traded goals in the first two rounds before Strondala ended it. Massimo Rizzo (Penticton Vees, BCHL), Silye, Blaisdell and Wong missed on their attempts for Canada West.
The Czechs are right back at it Friday night in the prelim finale, looking to secure their semifinal spot against Canada East (7 p.m. MT), while West won’t see the ice again until its Saturday semifinal.
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