The fortunes of all four teams in the Breclav Group depended on the outcome of the final game between the host Czechs and Sweden, and both teams seemed nervous, with several miscues and goaltenders Vitek Vanecek and Linus Soderstrom were forced to bail their teams out on several occasions.
Six minutes in, William Nylander Altelius had a breakaway starting from the top of the faceoff circle in his own zone all the way and beat Vanecek with a deke but hit the goalpost. Four minutes later, David Pastrnak was given a gift in front of the Swedish goal, but seemed so surprised that he rushed his shot and Soderstrom stopped him.
Just shy of the 16-minute mark, Filip Pyrochta sprung David Pastrnak with a stretch pass from his own zone to the far blue line. He beat Soderstrom with a beautiful forehand deke to open the scoring.
The Swedes threatened to tie the game on a late-period power play, but couldn´t solve Vanecek.
Both teams came out gunning to start the second period, with end-to-end action that included another Pastrnak breakaway with a chance to increase the lead; however, he fell. Adam Ollas Mattsson took a penalty for high sticking in the first minute of the period and it took only 24 seconds for the Czechs to cash in--Jakub Zboril set up by Pastrnak, who had himself quite a game.
Not happy with what he was seeing, Swedish coach Anders Eriksen called a timeout at the 2:30 mark of the period, and his team came out gunning for the next while but they were still unable to penetrate Vanecek.
In the last minute of the middle frame, the Czechs increased the lead to three--Michal Kovarcik centered in front to Radek Vesely, and Linus Soderstrom initally made a nice save, but Milan Svarc got his stick on the puck in the crease and knocked it across the line to make it 3-0 after two periods.
The Swedes seemed snake-bitten, but they kept plugging away. Axel Holmstrom was in alone on Vanecek early in the third period but backhanded the puck just wide. But this team full of talent was obviously not finished, and one had the feeling a big push was coming.
With just over eight minutes to play, Dmytro Timashov fed Oskar Lindbolm in front, and he had all the time in the world to pick the corner and put his team on the board. The Swedish train was on the rails.
The Swedes were now playing inspired hockey and went to the power play when Karabacek went off for tripping. Two minutes after the Lindbolm goal, Nylander Altelius crossed the blueline on a Swedish rush and fired a perfect shot to bring his team within one.
Less than a minute after the Nystrom Altelius goal, the Czechs went to the power play when Gutav Forslund was called for holding, but the Swedes came oh so close to tying the game shorthaned--Gustav Franzen fed Adrian Kempe, but Vanecek robbed him.
On the ensuing counter-attack up the ice, Kempe dumped a Czech backchecker in the neutral zone, giving the Czechs a two-man advantage. Just after Forslund´s penalty ended, but before he could get back into the play, Pyrochta fed Pastrnak again, and his one-timer beat Soderstrom high to the blocker side. The Czech crowd went wild and Pastrnak jumped against the glass to rev them up even more.
At that point, the Swedish comeback seemed halted. They pulled their goalie late, and Lukas Vopelka shot it from deep in his own zone into the empty net to make it a 5-2 score with 56 seconds left, effectively punching the Czechs´ ticket into the semfinals on Friday.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)
Waking up with the Kings: December 5
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