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2021 World Juniors recap & highlights: Czechs stun Russia with a stingy defensive effort

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The Czechs made the most of their key chances as they upset Russia on Sunday night.

Russia v Czech Republic: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

With a game under their belts the Russians and the Czechs came into Sunday coming off of two very different results in their opening games. The Russians punished a sloppy American side en route to a 5-3 victory on Christmas, while the Czech Republic faltered against the Swedish machine in their opening game.

Jan Mysak was a bright spot for the Czechs, and he’ll need another strong showing against a deep Russian side that made mincemeat of the American defence. For Russia, they had to keep their eyes on the prize after their opening victory, as they’ve sometimes let games like these get away from them. Yaroslav Asakarov got the start for Russia, while the Czechs went with Lukas Parik in net, in addition to getting Adam Raska back after a suspension.

A lazy turnover by Shakir Mukhamadullin nearly gave the Czechs an early lead as their top line pounced on the mistake by the Russian defender. Askaraov fought off the attempt and eventually the speed of the Russian attack drew a penalty, putting them on an early man advantage. The Russian power play turned the Czech zone into a shooting range, and were perhaps unlucky to not find a goal, but a massive block by Filip Koffer helped to keep Russia off the board on the power play.

The Czechs did push back, finding space for a rush by Adam Raska who got in for a clean look on goal, only to be denied by the blocker of Askaraov. The game picked up in physicality and intensity, with David Jiricek burying Arseni Gritsyuk as he tried to enter the offensive zone. The Russians managed to push the Czechs back, with Ilya Safonov turning a loose puck into a two-on-one rush, but a sliding block by Jan Mysak denied them a chance on net. Then as the play rushed the other way, Yaroslav Askarov lost track of a shot, and flung his own stick away while trying to recover, the puck however had gone behind the net and the score remained tied.

The period went to first intermission scoreless, with the Czechs matching the Russian attack at every turn.

The furious pace continued into the second period, with the Russians taking the majority of chances on net and Lukas Parik fending them off. After a huge hit by Adam Raska on Rodion Amirov the the Czech offence got their legs back. A bad turnover by Askarov led to a breakaway chance that forced the Russian goalie into an incredible sprawling save to keep the game scoreless.

Pavel Novak drew a tripping call, giving the Czech Republic their first power play of the game, and a huge opportunity to finally open the scoring. The combination of Mysak and Michal Teply tested Yaroslav Askarov, but the netminder fought the chance off with his pads.

With the penalty killed the Russians hemmed the Czechs in their own end for nearly two minutes, it seemed all but inevitable that they’d add a goal finally. Yet Shakir Mukhamadullin misplayed a puck at the blue line, turning it into an odd-man rush the other way. Jakub Rycholvsky then held up, leaving a pass for Filip Koffer who hammered it by a diving Askarov, putting the Czechs up late in the second period.

That’s all the Czech side needed, and they entered the second intermission with a one goal lead, and a massive amount of swagger in their pockets.

The Czechs continued to make the most of their chances off of Russian mistakes early in the third period. Martin Lang got in front of a point shot, forcing the puck out of the zone, and turning it into a breakaway chance. Lang broke in, firing a shot under Askarov’s arm to double the Czech advantage early in the third period.

The Czechs followed their goal up with a penalty, then another one that also drew an embellishment call on Rodion Amirov. However, the stout Czech defensive system prevented the Russians from getting even a single shot on net. Simon Kubicek shoved Maxim Groshev head-first into the boards, earning him a two minute penalty and ten minute misconduct. The Russian power play again failed to create much of anything, generating just two shots on net, and still trailing by a pair of goals.

The Russians continued to try and break down the Czech defence, while the Czechs were content to absorb the attack, then counter punch down the ice. It continued to work as the Russian side couldn’t find any free space to get pucks on Lukas Parik late in the third period.

A late power play for Russia yielded absolutely nothing as the Czechs celebrated on the bench and on the ice, pulling off the incredible upset, and throwing Group B into pure chaos standing wise. The Czech side will clash with the Americans on Tuesday afternoon, while Russia will have the chances to right their course against Austria on Tuesday night.