Canada bested the Czech Republic 3-0 in their first game of 2021 to advance to the semi-finals at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Edmonton, Alberta.
Coming into the game, it was announced Canada would be without forward Alex Newhook after he sustained a shoulder injury against Finland. He missed most of that game on New Year’s Eve but there was a hope he would return for this one. His status for the remainder of the tournament is unknown.
Canada came out dominating the quarter-final but the Czech Republic put up a fight. On both Canadian goals in the first period, Czech goaltender Nick Malik made contact with the puck but could not hold tight and they managed to sneak by him. Goals from Dylan Cozens and Bowen Byram gave Canada an early lead.
The Czech Republic stayed in it by not letting Canada get too far ahead after the first period. They played an aggressive game, attempting to throw Canada off. While they could not get one past Devon Levi, the Czech Republic attempted the most shots Canada has faced in the tournament thus far. They actually outshot Canada, 29-25. Canada held them off and Connor McMichael scored on an empty net, grabbing some last-minute insurance.
The pairing of Byram and Jamie Drysdale continuously jumped up into the play, making it hard for the Czech players to exit their end. Their quick, clean zone exits as a pair, mixed with their individual abilities make for a dynamic and dangerous defensive pairing. These two have been lights out for Canada and continue to be some of the top defencemen in Edmonton. They’ve arguably been the best pairing across the entire tournament.
This close win was made possible by Canadian netminder, Levi who stopped all 29 Czech shots. His calm demeanour, steady positioning and strong rebound control make for a trustworthy starting goaltender. His puck tracking has been second to none and his agility is certainly impressive. Levi came out of nowhere in camp and has taken the starter role, handling everything that’s been thrown at him.
Canada will now look to the semi-finals where they will take on Russia in a rematch of last year’s final on Monday evening. These two teams met in a pre-tournament game where Canada snuck out a 1-0 win. This is sure to be a fantastic matchup as coming into the tournament, many predicted these two teams would meet in the final.
Mikayla’s Players of the Game
29 SA, 29 SV, 1.000 SV%
Devon Levi has been a star for Canada in this tournament. The Northeastern University goaltender has embraced his role with the utmost focus and preparation. He has been solid in every game thus far but this was his biggest test. He handled the higher volume of shots well, completely shutting the door on the Czechs. By starting each of Canada’s games, he’s been able to gain momentum and get comfortable in this role. He was drafted in the seventh round of the NHL Draft by the Florida Panthers in 2020.
0 G, 0 A, 0 Points, 3 SOG
Adam Raska played a strong, aggressive game for the Czech Republic. He had three shots on goal, generating chances for his team. Raska fought to win puck battles, never quitting in the corners. This was his second showing at the World Juniors and the San Jose Sharks selected him in the seventh round of the NHL Draft in 2020.