Martin Růžička completed his natural hat trick just 64 seconds into overtime to complete a stunning comeback victory for Czechia over Finland, winning their opening match of the Channel One Cup to win the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
The Leijonat jumped out to an early start to silence the capacity crowd in Prague, striking twice on Dominik Furch to take the early lead. First, it was Sakari Manninen stealing the puck away from a failed Czech attempt at the Finnish blueline, springing a 3-on-2 break for the Finns; but rather than risk the play on a pass, Manninen opted to snipe directly on Furch, dropping back to use his teammates as a screen for the 1-0 lead. Joonas Kemppainen would double up the score with 51 seconds left in the first on the power play, completing a tic-tac-toe passing play with Julius Junttila, finding Kemppainen alone in front to bang in his own rebound for the 2-0 lead.
The Finns, anchored by star goaltender Mikko Koskinen, held off the Narodnitym throughout the second period and the first half of the third. But it was with 7:45 remaining that Růžička turned on the jets and never looked back. He first struck on the man advantage, burying a Andrej Nestrašil rebound from the top of the slot past Koskinen to halve the lead. He struck again just 82 seconds later, the odd man out after the Finnish defence were heavily occupied with Tomáš Mertl and Milan Doudera along the boards, left wide open alone in front to bang in the tying goal.
The momentum was guaranteed to stay for the Czechs into overtime when Kemppainen was called for tripping just 19 seconds into the extra frame, and just like his first two goals, it was Růžička at the top of the slot again, this time blasting home a one-timer from Ondřej Němec to complete the comeback, complete the hat trick, and complete the victory for an ecstatic crowd at the O2 arena.
With the victory, the Czechs capture their 70th International Hockey Lineal Championship, and first in over two years. This meeting was the 58th IHLC meeting between the Czechs and Finns since their first ever matchup in 1963, and their first since the 2014 World Championship Semifinal, improving the Czechs’ record to 34-17-7. The Czechs will now move on to Moscow, where they meet Canada next in two days’ time for the IHLC.
04:10 – PEN – Koukal, tripping
04:34 – PEN – Koskiranta, tripping
05:45 – GOAL – Manninen
18:42 – PEN – Kundrátek, holding
19:09 – PP GOAL – Kemppainen (Junttila)
25:42 – PEN – Vondrka, hooking
29:02 – PEN – Ohtamaa, tripping
35:51 – PEN – Kontiola, slashing
39:15 – PEN – Řepík, high sticking
48:25 – PEN – Holík, high sticking
51:29 – PEN – Pihlström, hooking
52:15 – PP GOAL – Růžička (Nestrašil, Erat)
53:37 – GOAL – Růžička (Mertl, Doudera)
60:19 – PEN – Kemppainen, tripping
61:04 – PP GOAL – Růžička (Němec, Erat)
W: Furch (18-20)
L: Koskinen (23-26)
SHOTS ON GOAL
5+5+15+1 = 26
11+6+3+0 = 20
Goaltenders: Patrik Bartošák, Dominik Furch. Defence: Milan Doudera, Michal Jordán (A), Jan Kolář (A), Tomáš Kundrátek, Zbyněk Michálek, Vojtěch Mozík, Ondřej Němec, Libor Šulák. Forwards: Martin Erat (C), Petr Holík, Petr Koukal, Dominik Kubalík, Jakub Lev, Tomáš Mertl, Andrej Nestrašil, Lukáš Radil, Michal Řepík, Martin Růžička, Michal Vondrka, Tomáš Zohorna.
Goaltenders: Mikko Koskinen, Juha Metsola. Defence: Jani Hakanpää, Mikka Koivisto, Ville Lajunen, Mikko Lehtonen, Niko Mikkola, Atte Ohtamaa (A), Juuso Riikola, Mikael Ruohomaa. Forwards: Marko Anttila, Teemu Hartikainen, Julius Junttila, Joonas Kemppainen, Petri Kontiola (C), Jarno Koskiranta (A), Jani Lajunen, Sakari Manninen, Jukka Peltola, Antti Pihlström, Juuso Puustinen, Veli-Matti Savinainen.