December 26, 2017
by Andrew Podnieks
Filip Zadina and Filip Chytil scored in the second period to beak a 2-2 tie en route to a huge 5-4 Czech upset of the Russians.
The improbable win came in the opening game of the 2018 World Junior Championship and was only the second victory for the Czechs in the last eleven meetings between the two teams.
“We scored five times against the Russians, so that was big for us,” said Czech defenceman Vojtech Budik. “They’re always such a good team, but our coaches prepared us really well for this game, and we played with a lot of intensity.”
The U20 has been an event that has been as favoured by the Russians as it has been disappointing for the Czechs. Indeed, Russia has earned a medal in 22 of the last 26 U20 tournaments while the Czechs haven’t reached the medals since 2005 (bronze).
This afternoon, however, the Czechs took the initiative from the get-go and proved resilient when pressed. They opened the scoring with a power-play goal just 4:42 into the game, Martin Necas wiring a shot from the slot off a nice corner feed from Martin Kaut who had three assists in the game.
Just 39 seconds later, though, the Russians tied the score when Alexei Polodyan made a great tip off a shot from Andrei Altybarmakyan. Two minutes later, the Czechs went up again thanks to good hand-eye coordination from Ostap Safin. He batted a loose puck in after a wraparound by Chytil was stopped by Russian goalie Alexei Melnichuk.
Marsel Sholokhov rounded out a high-scoring first to make it 2-2 on a low shot from in front. The Czechs seemed in control of the game, or at least looked comfortable in playing head-to-head with the Russians.
They got another goal with the extra man to produce their third lead, this at 5:34 of the second, Zadina converting a nice cross-crease pass from Kaut.
Midway through the period it looked like Chytil had incurred an injury after a hard check in what was a physical game. He left the ice bleeding, but after going to the dressing room he returned with a vengeance. Chytil knocked in a rebound after a nice rush by Safin, giving the Czechs a solid 4-2 lead after 40 minutes.
“That was the difference,” Sholokhov acknowledged. “We shouldn’t have let them score those two goals after we came back in the first period to tie the game.”
Kral added what proved to be a vital insurance goal midway through the third when his long shot eluded Vladislav Sukhachyov, who had replaced Melnichuk to start the third. As it turned out, this was the game winner. Russia made things more than a little unsettling for the winners by scoring twice in the dying minutes, but this was as close as it got.
“We were definitely nervous at the end, but we got the win, and that’s the main thing,” added Budik.
Both teams have the day off tomorrow. On Thursday, Russia plays Switzerland and the Czechs take on thr Swedes.