Canada overcame a tight contest, led by a sharp performance in net by Petr Mrázek, to defeat Czechia 4-1 to open their World Championship defence on a winning note, retaining the International Hockey Lineal Championship in the process.
Canada opened the scoring early, taking advantage of a potentially cold Mrázek in goal, when a nifty pass from Mark Scheifele behind the net to a streaking Ryan O’Reilly gave the Czech keeper no chance, putting Canada up 1-0 on the one-timer. Both Mrázek and Canadian goalie Calvin Pickard settled in after the opening tally, both making great saves on each end of the ice, with Mrázek in particular helping the Narodnitym kill off a trio of penalties.
But the penalty trouble would catch up to the Czechs early in the second period, as a Michal Kempný penalty that carried into the second led to a Michael Matheson goal 55 seconds into the period, as his point shot wired through a crowd in front, bounced off of Mrázek’s glove, and went in to double up Canada’s lead. Again, following the early setback, Mrázek remained outstanding in net, keeping his team within a two-goal deficit.
The Czechs cut the deficit midway through the third period, with Lukáš Radil popping in a rebound following a great one-timer save by Pickard on Jan Kovář, putting Canada’s lead in potential doubt. However, Tyson Barrie made sure to silence the Czech contingent in Paris just 2:09 later, receiving a great pass from Travis Konecny behind the net while streaking in on Mrázek, ripping a similar shot to O’Reilly’s opening goal to retake the two-goal lead. An empty netter from Jeff Skinner sealed the win at 4-1, a score not nearly reflective of Mrázek’s performance, but more so of the team in front of him.
With the win, Canada retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship, their 63rd title, which they won three days ago in Geneva in a win over the Swiss in a pre-tournament exhibition game. This meeting marks the 75th IHLC meeting between these two nations, dating back to their first tilt back in 1920, and improves Canada’s record all-time to 37-32-6. This is their first meeting since Canada’s 6-0 thrashing over the Czechs at September’s World Cup of Hockey; Canada has now won four straight over the Czechs for the IHLC, by a combined total score of 15-1. Lastly, this also marks the first IHLC match in the City of Lights in 65 years, the last being a Canada-Sweden exhibition match in March 1952. Canada will next meet Slovenia in two days’ time with the title up for grabs.
06:09 – GOAL – O’Reilly (Scheifele, Barrie)
09:51 – PEN – Giroux, high sticking
09:51 – PEN – Gudas, roughing
14:31 – PEN – MacKinnon, interference
16:11 – PEN – Matheson, high sticking
19:42 – PEN – Kempný, hooking
20:55 – PP GOAL – Matheson (Skinner, Giroux)
32:07 – PEN – Zohorna, high sticking
42:48 – PEN – Morrissey, hooking
50:46 – PEN – Killorn, slashing
52:41 – PP GOAL – Radil (Kovář, Voráček)
54:50 – GOAL – Barrie (Konecny, Giroux)
59:18 – EN GOAL – Skinner
W: Pickard (28-29)
L: Mrázek (24-27)
SHOTS ON GOAL
10+10+8 = 28
10+11+8 = 29
Goaltenders: Chad Johnson, Calvin Pickard. Defence: Tyson Barrie, Calvin de Haan, Jason Demers, Michael Matheson, Josh Morrissey, Marc-Édouard Vlasic (A). Forwards: Matt Duchene, Claude Giroux (C), Alex Killorn, Travis Konecny, Ryan O’Reilly (A), Nathan MacKinnon, Mitchell Marner, Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jeff Skinner.
Goaltenders: Pavel Francouz, Petr Mrázek. Defence: Radko Gudas, Jakub Jeřábek, Michal Kempný, Jakub Krejčík, Tomáš Kundrátek, Jan Rutta, Radim Šimek. Forwards: Michal Birner, Roman Červenka, Robin Hanzl, Roman Horák, Jan Kovář (A), David Pastrňák, Tomáš Plekanec (A), Lukáš Radil, Michal Řepík, Jakub Voráček (C), Petr Vrána, Tomáš Zohorna.