NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. – West had a 34-18 advantage in shots on goal, but the Czech Republic had the advantage where it counts, scoring a 5-2 win over the Canadian side Tuesday at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Czech goaltender Daniel Vladar was the story, finishing with 32 saves. He was at his best over the final 40 minutes; West outshot the Czechs 26-9 in periods two and three.
The Europeans’ 3-1 lead after the first period turned out to be too much for West; the Czechs scored three times on their first seven shots for a two-goal lead they would not relinquish.
Daniel Krenzelok opened the scoring on the Czechs’ very first shot, converting on a power play just 52 seconds in, and Filip Dvorak and David Kase had the other goals in first 20 minutes.
Jayden Halbgewachs (Emerald Park, Sask./Regina, SMAAAHL) was the lone scorer for West in the opening period.
Halbgewachs’ goal was a memorable one, snapping a wrist shot over Vladar’s glove after taking a beautiful cross-ice pass from Lane Pederson (Saskatoon, Sask./Saskatoon Blazers, SMAAAHL).
Kase netted the lone goal of the second period, sending the Czechs to the intermission with their biggest lead of the game at 4-1, and Filip Chlapik scored with the man advantage just past the midway point of the third period to make it 5-1.
Keegan Kolesar (Winnipeg, Man./Seattle, WHL) scored a power play goal of his own a minute-and-a-half after Chlapik’s goal when a Czech defender couldn’t clear away an in-crease rebound.
Other than Kase, Simon Stransky was the only skater to record more than one point; he finished with two assists.
While the West offence struggled to set up in the offensive zone, its defense was solid, blocking countless shots and holding the talented Czechs under 20 shots on goal.
West will try again for its first win when it takes on unbeaten Sweden in a New Year’s Day matinee (2 p.m. AT) in North Sydney, while the Czech Republic tries to keep pace with the leaders atop Group A, taking on Sweden on Wednesday night (7 p.m. AT) at the Emera Centre Northside.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)