The 2014 World Junior Championship had its first upset as the Czech Republic defeated Canada 5-4 in a shootout.
A Quick Start as the Catalyst
What doomed the Czech Republic against the United States was a poor start, as they gave up two power-play goals in the opening minutes. They were sure not to repeat the same mistake. Early on Canada looked to be in control, but the Czechs were able to shoulder the early blows before they put in the game’s first goal just past seven minutes in.
“We started well and it made it much easier to play,” said Czech assistant captain Dominik Simon. “We knew we could compete with them. We knew that we had to skate a lot and be aggressive.”
Canada would answer back before the end of the opening frame, but the Czechs settled in and controlled more of the game in the second and scored before the end of the period to go up 2-1.
Blow For Blow in the Third
That set the stage for what became the best period of the tournament to this point. Canada and the Czech Republic stood toe-to-toe against one another and traded punches like two combatants in a heavy-weight fight who could sense the urgency of the late rounds of a boxing match.
Canada’s sniper Jonathan Drouin answered less than a minute in with a power play tally. However, the Czechs remained unflappable and minutes later reclaimed the lead via a 4-on-4 goal from Vojitech Tomecek. And that wasn’t the last we’d see from special teams.
“Both the penalty kill and the power play were working at times and other times it wasn’t,” said Canada forward Sam Reinhart. “So there was a little bit of inconsistency there. We’re going to work on that a little more in practice.”
Midway through the period the Czechs were given a power play and an opportunity to go up by two goals. However, the chance backfired as they gave up a shorthanded goal to Aaron Ekblad. The Czechs once again showed their resolve by answering back moments later on the same power play opportunity to reclaim the lead.
That would be short lived, however. Minutes later Charles Hudon once again tied the game. The two teams were trading chances over the final few minutes when Czech goaltender Marek Langhammer got run into and laid on the ice. However, the common theme continued. Langhammer continued the game as he and his teammates battled hard against injuries and momentum swings.
A New Hero is Born
After a scoreless overtime period, the stage was set for a new hero to emerge. Simon had the puck on his stick with a chance to win it for the Czech Republic and he would not falter as he scored the shootout-deciding goal.
“Since I was the last shooter, I knew the goalie was going to be scared of my first move,” said Simon. “I went forehand and he moved out of the net and I turned it back one handed.”
While this is a red-letter victory for the Czech Republic, this is a tough loss to swallow for Canada. “Obviously it’s disappointing. At this tournament you have to realize that every team is good,” said Reinhart. “Every championship team battles through adversity at some point, whether it’s a lose or a bad period. It’s all about how you handle that, and we’re looking forward to the next one already.”
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As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.