The 2020 World Junior Championship preliminary round has been filled with much excitement, upsets, close games, and sometimes frustrating games. Lukas Parik got his first start of the tournament for the host Czech Republic who entered game number three of the preliminary round against Group B leaders Team USA after a frustrating loss to upstart Germany, and another capacity crowd filled the Ostravar Arena once again for what would be another wild game in the “Group of Death”.
Once again discipline was a factor for the Czechs who were called for a penalty three minutes into the first period and Shane Pinto scored on the ensuing power-play to put the USA ahead 1-0. The USA used the momentum to put the hosts on their heels through the majority of the first half of the opening frame. Czech captain Libor Zabransky sent the crowd to their feet as his shot found its way through traffic in front United States goaltender Spencer Knight to the tie game at 1-1. The Czechs got another opportunity late in the period as Jan Jenik was taken down entering the USA end, followed by a slashing call on the USA to give the men in red a two-man advantage. The Czech Republic took advantage quickly as a passing play found Zabransky on the doorstep in front of the net and the Moose Jaw Warriors product tallied his second goal of the game to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead to close out the first period of play.
The offense got rolling quickly in the second period as a delayed penalty for the Czech Republic with eighteen minutes and twenty seconds left resulted in a shot from Arthur Kaliyev that slipped behind Lukas Parik to tie the game at 2-2. The United States added on to the lead just under fourteen minutes left in the period as Jack Drury took a feed in front of the net and lifted a shot over Parik. The teams traded penalties throughout the majority of the period and both goalies came up with big saves and neither team was able to grab a full hold on the momentum in the game. Back to back penalties on the USA allowed the Czech offense to go to work with time winding down but the 3-2 United States lead would held up to end the period. However, an injury to Czech forward Jan Jenik as time expired was of greater concern heading into the intermission as Jenik needed to be helped off the ice unable to put weight on his leg and would not return for the rest of the game.
Once again Parik was tested early in the third period as the Czechs took a penalty in the opening three minutes of the third period allowing the USA to get extended time inside the Czech zone. The Ostravar Arena came to life at 6:57 of the third period when Simon Kubicek scored to seemingly tie the game at 3-3 for the Czech Republic on a delayed penalty, but the goal was called back for goaltender interference, the no goal call was then held up on a challenge by Czech republic head coach Vaclav Varada. The Czech power-play then got the job done on the ensuing power-play with just over eleven minutes left to play to tie the game at 3-3 as Petr Cajka poked a rebound off the pads of Spencer Knight into the net and lifted the roof off the Ostravar Arena. The Czech bend but don’t break defense was tested in the latter half of the period, but Lukas Parik was brilliant inside the net keeping the score even as the hosts forced the game to overtime.
With the crowd behind them at Ostravar Arena the Czechs dominated the possession during the opening minutes of the three on three overtime period. But a goal by Cole Caufield for the United States gave them the victory and the Czechs would finish the game with just a point to hold them in third place in Group B. The Czechs can take a lot of positives with them however heading into their last game of the preliminary round against Canada on New Years Eve day against Canada. The status of Jan Jenik remains a big factor for the hosts going forward in the tournament if he is out for extended time, as the time is already without forward Jakub Lauko, who’s tournament was limited to just six seconds in the team’s first game against Russia. The Czechs and Canada face-off Tuesday at 1:00pm EST to close out the Group B preliminary round for both teams.
Photo Credit: Czech Republic (Twitter)