World Juniors 2018 recap & highlights: Canada ends the Czech Republic’s Cinderella run in dominant fashion

The clock struck midnight for a resilient Czech team against Canada.

After Sweden advanced to the Gold Medal Game, the last semifinal of the night featured a matchup between the perennial powerhouse in Canada and this year’s upset specialist, the Czech Republic. Canada handled an underwhelming Switzerland side in the quarter-finals, while the Czechs pulled off a major upset over the Finns on the back of an all-world performance by Josef Korenar.

Korenar was between the pipes for the Czechs once again, as they looked to Filip Zadina and their other high-end talents to pull off their third shocker of the tournament. Canada once again had Carter Hart in net, and received a sizable boost on defence with the return of Victor Mete.

A back-and-forth opening few minutes saw the Czechs and Canadians trade low-danger chances. For the Canadians, they lost forward Boris Katchouk after he took a heavy Conor Timmins shot off the leg, sending him to the ice in clear pain, though he would later return.

Then it was 2018 top prospect Zadina who took over for the Czechs, with a ridiculous through-the-legs deke, then wired it past Carter Hart and opened the scoring.

Canada pushed back with Maxime Comtois nearly getting a 2-on-1 chance, then cancelled that momentum out with a silly Alex Formenton elbowing penalty. The following power play nearly saw disaster strike for Canada as Martin Necas was left all alone at the side of the net when he received a cross-ice pass. Hart did his best to dive back into position, and fortunately for him, Necas fired the puck straight over the net, and out of play.

The Canadians got their chance to equalize after a delay of game penalty, and they took full advantage. A good cycle sent the puck across to Sam Steel in the faceoff dot, and Steel uncorked a blistering one-timer that hit the net camera and shot out in the blink of an eye.

Albert Michnac put his team down a man shortly after with a penalty for cross-checking, giving Canada another opportunity to put a stop to any momentum the Czechs might have had going for them. They did just that, with Drake Batherson tipping in a Cale Makar shot and igniting the many Canadian fans in the crowd.

The opening period ended with Team Canada headed to the intermission up 2-1 on the scoreboard, and leading the Czechs in shots 11-5.

A Katchouk penalty sent the Canadians to the penalty kill less than two minutes into the period, and once again the Czechs missed a wide-open chance to tie the game. A cross-ice feed found Zadina near the goal line, and just like Necas earlier, he missed the yawning cage with Hart sprawling to get across.

Maxime Comtois nearly added to the lead with a one-timer from the slot, but Korenar stopped the initial shot, and then defenceman Radim Salda cleared a trickling rebound shot out of the net. An ensuing scrum then saw Salda sent to the box for roughing as a Canadian player got too close to his goalie.

It took less than a full minute for the power play to strike again, with Cale Makar letting the shot go, and again Batherson tipped it home for a 3-1 Canada lead.

After coming close all game, Comtois finally found the back of the net off a quick passing play by Brett Howden. Howden took the puck behind the net, with Comtois cutting in front, a quick pass gave Korenar no chance to react and Comtois tallied their fourth goal of the game.

Adding to the pile on was Jordan Kyrou, who dangled around Korenar, then waited for what seemed like an eternity before picking the far corner to make it 5-1 Canada, and more or less seal the game for the Canadians with an entire period left to play.

It was a night to remember for Batherson as he chased Josef Korenar from the game with his third goal of the night. Michael McLeod entered the zone and dished off to Batherson, who snuck a shot through Korenar to make it 6-1.

A late high sticking call on Ostap Safin gave Canada a power play to start the third as they kept their foot on the pedal against a wilting Czech side. Even with the deficit at five goals, the Czechs couldn’t find any space to work in the Canadian zone, while Canada on their first real threatening chance went up 7-1 with a snipe by Katchouk.

A Czech power play yielded more high-danger chances for the Canadians than the team with the man advantage, with Comtois and Formenton testing Jakub Skarek with multiple shots in close. Zadina gained a small measure of revenge with his second of the night, smacking a puck down and backhanding it past Hart for his second goal of the night.

As the minutes wound down the Canadian onslaught lessened slightly, but still had the Czechs defending for their lives in their own end, struggling to complete any sort of attack when they forced Canada into their own end, and eventually dropped the match by that 7-2 score.

Canada will play Sweden tomorrow in the Gold Medal Game at 8:00 PM, while the Czechs will clash with the United States in what should be a highly competitive battle for bronze.

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