NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. – In a game dictated by big hits and high intensity, Pacific earned an important 4-1 win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday night at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The win leaves Pacific, the Czechs and Sweden tied atop Group A with one day of preliminary round play to go.
Tyler Soy (Surrey, B.C./Victoria, WHL) was the only multiple-point scorer for Pacific, finishing with a goal and an assist, while Ty Ronning (Burnaby, B.C./Vancouver, WHL), Giorgio Estephan (Edmonton, Alta./Lethbridge, WHL) and Glenn Gawdin (Richmond, B.C./Swift Current, WHL) also found the back of the net.
Simon Stransky scored the lone goal for the Czech Republic, which will need a lot of help to make the semifinals after losing to both Sweden and Pacific.
A hard-hitting first period saw its only goal at the 15:36 mark, when a hard forecheck by Braylon Shmyr (Calgary, Alta./Brandon, WHL) and Adam Musil (Delta, B.C./Red Deer, WHL) led to Ronning snatching up a loose puck, spinning in the high slot and beating Czech goaltender Daniel Vladar over the blocker.
The Czechs pulled even on the power play six minutes into the second period, with Stransky burying the rebound of a Filip Chlapik point shot, but Pacific answered just 11 seconds later off the stick of Estephan, who buried the eventual game-winner.
Gawdin scored a goal similar to Ronning’s two minutes after that, taking a pretty cross-crease backhand pass from captain Jansen Harkins (North Vancouver, B.C./Prince George, WHL) for a 3-1 Pacific advantage after two periods.
Pacific controlled the offensive zone, applying a strong forecheck and preventing numerous breakouts from happening. When the Czechs did enter the Canadian zone, most of the shots directed at goaltender Zach Sawchenko (Calgary, Alta./Moose Jaw, WHL) came from the outside.
Pacific found itself two-men short in the dying minutes with Vladar on the bench for an extra attacker and the Czechs already enjoying a power play, but Soy hit the empty net with 23 seconds left for his second goal in as many games, clinching the win.
First place in the group will be decided Thursday when West takes on Quebec, which is only two points back of the trio in top spot, in the afternoon in North Sydney (2 p.m. AT), followed by Pacific vs. Sweden in the preliminary final (7 p.m. AT), with the winner heading to the semifinals.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)