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2020 World Juniors: CZE vs. USA Recap: Goal Caufield saves the day for Team USA in overtime

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Czechs' fight admirably until the Canadiens prospect ends it in overtime.

2019 NHL Combine - Portraits Photo by David J. Parrotta/NHLI via Getty Images

With the loss against Germany, the hosts from the Czech Republic have put themselves in somewhat of a pickle. Having already played Russia, they will need points — and help —against either Canada or USA to advance and avoid an uncertain trip to the relegation round.

Making matters considerably worse, star netminder Lukas Dostal was ruled out before Monday’s game against the States. Replacing him in net was Los Angeles Kings prospect Lukas Parik, drafted in the third round of 2019 and currently playing in the WHL with Spokane.

It was trial by fire instantly for Parik, when his teammate Radek Kucerik received a hooking minor after 2:55, sending the American team on the early power play. Less than a minute later Oliver Wahlstrom found Nick Robertson behind the net. Robertson saw Shane Pinto moving into the slot uncovered. Pinto scored his fourth goal in three games.

USA continued in the same manner, creating enough chances to warrant a second goal. The Czech Republic could only hope to weather the storm. However, this sport is seldom logical. Karel Klikorka left the puck for his captain Libor Zábranský on the blueline. The shot which followed was not hard but with good placement and a Czech player in the crease, Spencer Knight could do nothing to stop it. Ten minutes in and since the heavy American dominance had not paid off, we had a tied result in Ostrava.

Towards the end of the period, Czech magician Jan Jeník created two American penalties all by himself, handing his team more than a minute with a two-man-advantage. With a 5-on-3, the hosts could finally establish some pressure in the offensive zone. Michal Teplý on the right of the goal saw captain Zábranský sneak up from defence and found him with a perfect cross-ice pass. The turnaround was complete, to the delight of the majority of the 10,000 spectators in Ostravar Aréna.

If the Americans were getting slightly anxious after the first period, the beginning of the second settled their nervousness to some extent. Trevor Zegras was tripped by Ondrej Pavel but successfully passed the puck on to Arthur Kaliyev before the referees blew the whistle. Kaliyev has a tendency to shoot from every possible angle, as long as there is the slightest possibility of a positive outcome. Parik did certainly not expect a shot and once he stopped it, the puck had already gone into the net and come back out behind him. The shot was swift. It took the referees several minutes of conference with the video room before it could be confirmed that USA had tied the game up, even though spectators could see it on the very first replay.

Zegras is a first class playmaker and the Anaheim Ducks should feel properly excited to have him in their prospect pool. With what has got to be the assist of the tournament, he served Jack Drury for a simple go-ahead goal, spinning around before doing the no-look pass as if he were quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

During the first two periods, Jan Jeník played more than 14 minutes. During these championships he has had to step his game up even more, with fellow key player Jakub Lauko being out with a knee injury since game one. Today, with Dostal already out of the lineup, his internal value increased even more. The last thing happening in the second period, even after the horn had sounded, was Jeník getting hit by or skating into American Jacob Pivonka in an odd sequence ending with the Czech laying on the ice, in pain and grabbing his knee. The arena went silent. The hosts now carried uncertainty among their three best players, with risk of them all being out for the remainder of the tournament.

Seven minutes into the third, Simon Kubicek thought he had tied the contest up yet again. However, after thorough video review the referees found a goaltender interference on Knight leading to the goal, to the attendance's and head coach Vaclav Varada's dismay.

In the same sequence, Jack Drury received a tripping minor with a Czech power play to follow. Already fired up by the undermined goal minutes before, the hosts continued to put pressure on the American defence. Kubicek shot again and on the rebound that followed, Petr Cajka shoved the puck over the goal line with major celebrations to follow.

USA used their superior skill level to try to get the game winner before overtime. At least twice, the posts saved Parik. Other times, Czech players were in the way, fighting for the point which would put them ahead of both Russia and Germany in the standings.

Entering overtime, nobody could know which ending we would get. This game had twisted and turned back and forth. But Habs fans would get their Hollywood ending. Cole Caufield got the puck back from his college teammate Alex Turcotte and flicked it past Parik for the overtime winner. A sigh of relief and all smiles from both Caufield and Turcotte, as they have both struggled to start the tournament. This will surely make them feel less weight on their shoulders for the rest of these championships.

USA will now get some rest, having already played their four games of round robin. The Czechs' will reload for tomorrow afternoon when they are facing Team Canada. They still need to get points, or hope for a regulation result in the Germany-Russia game. Luckily for the Czechs, they will know what they need when they take to the ice.