Czechs Come Up Big to Defeat Russia
If you put money on a Russia loss today, it's time to Czech your back account.
The Czech Republic entered Sunday having won three of the past five meetings between the two nations, but the Russians were still seen as the favorites. But a perfect effort from Lukas Parik and a pair of goals off of hard-fought efforts meant the Czechs would win once again, this time securing their first points of the tournament in memorable fashion.
Parik stopped all 30 shots he faced, marking the first Czech shutout over Russia since 2000. He'll have his penalty killers to thank for that, as the Czechs killed off four penalties in the final 13 minutes to play to keep the shutout intact.
Parik was especially busy in the second, though, stopping 15 shots, including one just seconds before Jakub Rychlovsky could take the puck and create a scoring chance. He did just that, setting up Filip Koffer with four minutes to go in the middle stanza to give the Czechs the 1-0 lead. The Russians struggled to get pucks on net when it mattered, with just six total. Instead, Martin Lang scored five minutes into the final frame to secure the deal, giving the Czechs a win in perhaps the most exciting game of the tournament.
“It’s a great feeling," Parik said about the final seconds of play, knowing his team had the victory in hand. "I can’t even describe it."
The win now makes the Group B race even tighter with four of the five teams winning at least once so far. If the Czechs can win against the United States, that would give them a great shot at second place in the group after losing 7-1 to Sweden on Saturday. Still, there's a lot of hockey left to play in the preliminary round, but the win will definitely change things up in what's considered the strongest of the two groups.
A Bit of a Different Win for Canada Over Defensively Sound Slovaks
“It’s Canada, so we expect the worst.”
Those were the post-game words for Slovakian goaltender Samuel Hlavaj, the man tasked with facing Canada less than 24 hours after the team wrapped up a whopping 16-2 victory against Germany. But it didn't go that bad this time, and while Hlavaj and Slovakia eventually fell 3-1 to the Canadians, they kept it close until the dying minutes.
The game was a far cry from the barnburner from Saturday. At 4:08, Jordan Spence - who sat out Game 1 for the Canadians - scored on a Philip Tomasino rebound, giving Canada the 1-0 lead. The Slovaks then slowed the pace down, preventing the Canadians a chance at getting the puck on net for 11 minutes in the middle stanza, but only getting one shot on as a group themselves.
Tomasino would eventually get Canada back on the board at 56:25, a lead that many expected would go the distance. But with an empty net and a power play to boot, Martin Chromiak cut the lead in half with just under a minute and a half left to go to make things close once again. Unfortunately for the Slovaks, Jack Quinn scored an empty-net goal to finish things off, helping Canada to improve to 2-0-0-0 in the tournament before a day off on Monday.
The Slovaks will turn their focus to Germany in what could be an important game in the quarter-final fight down the road. Canada gets a day of rest before battling Switzerland on Tuesday, with a group play final matchup set for Finland on New Year's Eve still to come.
Score Was Close, But Finns Too Much For Swiss
The score was 2-1 for a good portion of the battle, but it wasn't indicative of just how much better Finland was in its 4-1 victory over Switzerland to open up the third day of play.
The Finns limited Switzerland to just six shots or fewer per period, including just two in the third. But the Swiss did connect first, with Attilio Biasca scoring on a power play after Ray Fust set him up at the side of the net.
But that's about it for Switzerland's presence on the scoresheet. About 40 seconds later, though, Finnish captain Anton Lundell made no mistake on a cross-crease pass to tie things up for the Finns. Juuso Parssinen scored at 4:53 in the middle stanza on the power play to give the Finns the eventual victory, but Aku Raty and Kasper Simontaival added markers of their own on the man advantage to finish off the game.
This muddies things a bit for Switzerland. If the Swiss can't beat Canada on Dec. 29, it will make the team's game against Germany on Dec. 30 a must-win to secure a spot in the quarter-finals.
1. Lukas Parik, G (CZE): A 30-save shutout against a gold medal contender is a perfect way to kick off his 2021 tournament. If he didn't have the starter's job before, he does now.
2. Philip Tomasino, RW (CAN): Sat out the exhibition game for Canada and has been dressing on the bottom line. A goal and an assist in 8:48 of ice time isn't too shabby.
3. Topi Niemela, D (FIN): Two assists, but he was simply a force at both ends of the ice. One of the best defenders so far early in the tournament.
Group A Standings
1. Canada, 6P (2-0-0-0)
2. Finland, 6P (2-0-0-0)
3. Slovakia, 3P (1-0-0-1)
4. Switzerland 0P (0-0-0-2)
5. Germany, 0P (0-0-0-2)
Group B Standings
1. Sweden, 6P (2-0-0-0)
2. USA, 3P (1-0-0-1)
3. Russia, 3P (1-0-0-1)
4. Czech Republic, 3P (1-0-0-1)
5. Austria, 0P (0-0-0-1)