BUFFALO – Canada defeated the Czech Republic 7-2 in a fierce and tense game marked by a breakout performance from Brayden Schenn, an injury to Calvin de Haan, a suspension to Zack Kassian, and a more serious-looking injury to Petr Senkerik. Oh, and two players were ejected along the way.
The game at HSBC Arena ran the full gamut of emotions in a second period in which Canada scored the only three goals to take control and in which Senkerik was taken off the ice on a stretcher.
In all, Canada scored four power-play goals, while Schenn had a goal and four assist and captain Ryan Ellis a goal and three assists. Goals came from seven different players for the Canadians.
"I think we were really strong and took advantage of our power plays," said Ryan Johansen. "Everybody did a good job and contributed. That’s why it went so well. We have lots of skill on our team with four lines that can play."
As in their first game, the Canadians started off slowly and allowed their opposition to get on the board first. In today’s game, the goal came just 49 seconds after the opening faceoff. Defenceman Ryan Ellis mishandled the puck at centre ice, and Antonin Honejsek claimed it with speed. He ripped a shot through the glove of goalie Olivier Roy who was left looking at his leather as if allocating blame, although it was all his.
The Czechs had little incentive to press after this and almost allowed Canada to tie the score thanks to a terrible giveaway by their captain Jakub Jerabek. He threw the puck up the middle in his end, and Kassian was there to pick it up and move in on goal. Fortunately for Jerabek, Kassian fired his shot way high and wide.
Canada built confidence quickly, though, and by the midway mark was clearly in control. The team got two late power-play goals to go ahead before the end of the period to erase Roy’s error at the other end. On the first, Ryan Johansen feathered a pass to a streaking Schenn down the left side in the Czech end, and he beat goalie Filip Novotny with a quick shot between the pads at 14:43.
Less than two minutes later, Shenn, whose brother Luke plays for Toronto in the NHL, made a nice cross-ice pass inside the Czech end and Jaden Schwartz ripped a shot to the open side to give Canada the lead. It outshot the Czechs 14-2 in the period and brought the huge Canadian contingent of 17,919 alive.
The game become rougher in the second period. First, Calvin de Haan suffered an injury when he went hard into the corner boards in his end. He was slow to get up and didn’t return. Then, at 5:53, Kassian cut through the middle of the ice when he nailed Senkerik with a shoulder check. Senkerik fell to the ice and lay motionless for several moments following the controversial hit, and he was put on a stretcher and carried off.
“It was a pretty scary moment the way he left the building, but he was awake and communicating,” the Czech assistant coach Jiri Fischer said. “We will know more tomorrow after the examination at the hospital.”
Referees initially didn’t call a penalty, but after conferring they decided Kassian merited a match penalty for checking to the head and neck area. The penalty entails an automatic one-game suspension as written in the IIHF Rulebook. The tournament’s Disciplinary Single Judge, former long-serving NHL referee Dan Marouelli, will decide whether this hit will entail supplementary disciplinary action, i.e. a suspension of more than one game.
The Czechs might have used this extended power play to get right back into the game, but instead it was Canada that got the only goal of the extra Czech player. The goal began with Roy’s finest save of the tournament on a clean chance by Honejsek, and play carried up ice as Schenn made a great pass to Louis Leblanc. Leblanc made an equally nice deke on Novotny and tucked the puck in the short side to make it a 3-1 game when it could have been a 2-2 game only moments earlier.
Soon after, Schenn figured in on his fourth goal of the night during a delayed penalty against the Czechs. He made a nice pass from behind the goal to captain Ryan Ellis in the slot, and Ellis rifled a shot home. The Canadians put the game more or less out of reach with 16.3 seconds left, Cody Eakin finishing a play that started with a lovely touch pass from Casey Cizikas inside the Czechs' blue line.
Martin Frk added to the tension when he took a five-minute major and game misconduct for spearing Erik Gudbrandson in the groin early in the third. Two more Czech penalties gave Canada a lengthy two-man advantage, and Tyson Barrie connected with power-play goal thanks to another Schenn assist. Just 23 seconds later, Jared Cowan made it 7-1 on a slapshot.
Jerabek closed out the scoring with a late power-play goal for the Czechs.
The teams last played in the Preliminary Round in 2009 when Canada thumped its rivals by an 8-1 count. Canada now has 24 hours to prepare for Norway while the Czechs have a day off before playing Sweden at Dwyer Arena on Thursday night.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)