The Canadian junior team huffed and puffed and finally had enough to blow a few shots past brilliant Czech Republic goalie Petr Mrazek on Wednesday.
The Canadians beat the stingy Mrazek, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67’s, 5-0 to improve their 2012 world under-20 championship record to 2-0. Next up for Canada is 0-2 Denmark on Thursday.
“Their best player was their goaltender,” Canadian coach Don Hay said. “He was real good.
“We didn’t get frustrated. We kept putting the pressure on. Obviously, the [Ryan] Strome goal [late in the second period] was an important one for us and [Brett] Connolly gave us a three-goal lead which also was very important.”
Canada outshot its opponents 38-26 and won the special teams battle. The Canadians scored two power-play goals and went a perfect eight-for-eight on the penalty kill.
There usually is questionable officiating when two European referees get the call to officiate a game and this was certainly the case with Russian ref Vyacheslav Bulanov and his partner from Finland, Jyri Petteri-Ronn. Still, Hay would like to see his players have as much discipline in this area as they did in sticking with the game plan against Mrazek.
“We stuck with it, and that‘s one of the things you have to do in a tournament like this,” said Canadian forward Brendan Gallagher, who missed a glorious chance in the first period.
Mrazek, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, made several dazzling stops, including pad save on Mark Stone’s penalty shot in the first period after Czech defenceman Jiri Riha put his hand over the puck in the crease during a goal-mouth scramble.
Much to chagrin of the crowd of 16,417 at Rexall Place, Mrazek did a little celebration jig in which he pumped his fist.
“I didn’t like it,” Gallagher said. “But he was happy he made the stop.”
About the same time the Canadian juniors arrived at the rink for their game against the Czechs, Finland finished off a 4-1 upset win over the United States in the early game at Rexall Place. That puts Canada into the driver’s seat to advance straight to the semi-finals in Calgary next week. The Canadians play their North American rivals on New Year’s Eve to complete the round-robin portion of the tournament.
Hay elected to start Scott Wedgewood of Brampton, Ont. in goal against the Czech Republic and the New Jersey Devils draft pick didn‘t disappoint with a shutout. He also picked up an assist on Brett Connolly‘s second-period goal.
Canada led 1-0 after the first period thanks to Stone’s fourth goal in two games.
Mrazek, who is second in the OHL with 16 wins, made a couple dandy stops on Canadian breaks in the second period. But finally Strome scored on the power play and Connolly banged in his own rebound after his initial deke hit the post.
OHL leading scorer Tanner Pearson set up his Barrie Colts teammate Mark Scheifele for Canada’s two goals in the third period. The second Scheifele goal was on the power play.