Down 1-0 early in front of their home fans, the Czech Republic started to take a chippy approach to their semifinal game against Canada at the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial hockey tournament.
Their strategy played right into the Canadians’ hands.
Canada scored a pair of power-play goals and beat the Czechs 5-2 Friday to advance to a fifth straight tournament final.
“We like chippy,” Canadian coach Todd Gill said. “We’re Canadians, we want to play a chippy game if the refs allow it, but over here you never know. I told my guys to finish checks, keep sticks down ... and we stayed out of the box for the most part.”
Bo Horvat opened the scoring on the power play for Canada and added a third-period insurance goal.
Team captain Sam Reinhart had another strong game with a power-play goal and three assists, while Nic Petan and Max Domi also scored.
Lubos Rob scored both goals for the Czechs on the power play.
The Czechs found themselves short-handed frequently early on, taking seven minor penalties in the first period.
“It just got a little carried away at the start,” Reinhart said. “It wasn’t like they were really aggressive. it was just some unfortunate bounces, a delay of game, stuff like that. It enabled us to really take it to them early.”
The game was tied 1-1 after the opening 20 minutes despite Canada outshooting the Czechs 11-1. Rob scored on the Czech Republic’s only shot of the first period, which came with just 12 seconds remaining.
But Reinhart scored his third goal in as many games on a power play 1:13 into the second period to give Canada a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Reinhart also scored the game-winner in Canada’s final preliminary-round game against Slovakia with just 53 seconds left in regulation.
“He’s been our ultimate leader,” Gill said. “He just knows how to present himself. He’s on the point on our power play, he kills penalties, he’s scored some big goals 5-on-5. And he’s a leader in the dressing room. He’s well respected.”
“I guess having a dad like that, he’s taught him well,” Gill added. Reinhart’s father is Paul Reinhart, who had an 11-year career with the Atlanta/Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks.
The crowd of roughly 500 in Breclav made its presence known, with fans chanting and beating drums.
“They were loud,” Gill said. “It’s a totally different thing. It’s almost like a soccer match over here with the drums and the chants, but they supported their club well.”
Canada will play Finland in Saturday’s final. The Finns advanced with a 5-4 overtime win over archrival Sweden.
“They play probably as close to a North American game as any country here,” Gill said of the Finns. “We know they’re going to come hard, they pass the puck very well, they’re physical, you can’t intimidate them. Should match up to be a great gold-medal final.”
Reinhart said playing a composed style will be key for Canada in the championship game.
“Early on we weren’t composed on the bench, or on the ice especially. We’ve really changed that throughout the tournament and that composure will be huge for us in the final.”
The Canadians have dominated this event, having won it the last four years and 16 times overall since 1991.Report Typo/Error