World Juniors: Canada beats Czech Republic 5-1

For years, Kent Johnson has been working on a move that has stunned goalies and hockey fans alike.

He executed it brilliantly on Saturday, scoring a highlight goal that helped Canada to a 5-1 win over the Czech Republic at the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships.

19 minutes into the first period, Johnson put the stunning game winner away by blasting the puck on his stick knife behind the net, picking it up as he slid forward and spinning it over the Czech goalie’s shoulder for a heavy to score a tangible “Michigan” goal.

The move — also known as the lacrosse goal — is something the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has been honing for about six years.

“I’ve been practicing this move since I was about 14 and I’ve been doing it,” he said. “Now it’s just something that’s in the tool box.”

Still, it was exciting to give the Canadians a 2-1 lead that they never gave up.

“It’s a big goal, a really good one,” said Johnson, who added an assist in the third period. “I think it’s also the period I had. I think I would have been pretty pumped too if it had jumped off my skate.”

The play elicited wild cheers from the 5,135 spectators at Rogers Place. On the ice, Johnson’s linemate Logan Stankoven held his gloved hands above his head and let out, “Oh my God!”

“Honestly, it was probably one of the most beautiful Michigans I’ve ever seen,” said Canada’s captain Mason McTavish. “He made it so fast and then by the end of the first third the ice isn’t that great anymore. So that was something special to see. I will definitely watch that over and over again.”

McTavish scored twice for Canada (3-0-0) on Saturday while Ridly Greig and Tyson Foerster both came back. Jack Thompson, Ronan Seeley and Stankoven each contributed two assists.

Czech Republic (1-1-1) opened the first goal with a goal shorthanded at the beginning of the first period.

Jaroslav Chmelar was sent into the pits after driving fellow New York Rangers Brennan Othmann into the boards from behind, leaving the Canadian with a bloody nose.

The game was reviewed and Chmelar was ejected with a game misconduct. His team had to kill a five-minute major penalty.

Rysavy gave the Czechs some breathing room and put a shot under the bar to make it 5:10. The puck bounced off the net and play continued, but a video review moments later showed the puck had crossed the goal line.

The way Canada recovered bodes well for the rest of the tournament, Othmann said.

“It’s just a little bit of adversity. And that’s fine in these games,” he said. “I think that gives more character to the important games, the elimination games. And it just shows that we’re resilient. It doesn’t matter who we play against, we will keep going.”

It was a busy night at the net for Czech goalkeeper Tomas Suchanek, who stopped 52 of 57 shots.

McTavish was the first to beat the keeper and equalized at 16:44 in the first frame by deflecting Thompson’s long blast through traffic.

Seconds earlier, Suchanek made a spectacular stop to keep his team’s lead. Stationed at the side of the net, Johnson quickly fired at the out-of-position goaltender, but Suchanek slipped over just in time to save a diving glove.

“I was a bit lucky,” admitted the Czech goalkeeper. “The puck went in the slot and I saw he was going to play it over and I just took my glove off and he just shot it in my glove. I was like, ‘Oh my god, what just happened?’ I watched the replay and it was quite fun. I just said to myself ‘Well done’ and carried on.”

Canada head coach Dave Cameron said he was “nervous” about how well Suchanek was playing early in the game.

“This tournament, now that the games are getting better and the competition is getting tougher, you have to stick with it,” he said. “(Suchanek) was really good and we stuck with it and found a way.”

At the other end of the ice, Dylan Garand made his second tournament win for the Canadians with 22 saves.

Canada took a 3-1 lead at 4:48 in the frame thanks to a power play goal.

Czech Republic’s Gabriel Szturc was called up for the rough and Greig tapped Seeley’s shot after five seconds to score his second goal of the tournament.

Canada was 1-3 on Saturday’s power play while the Czech Republic went 0-2.

Teen phenom Connor Bedard set up Canada’s fourth goal of the night, cutting a crisp pass to McTavish, who was alone at the head of the slot. He carved his way with stick handling and shot through the goalie’s legs for his second goal of the game 11:05 into the second.

Foerster sealed the deal at 7:39 of the third half, picking up a pass from Johnson in the middle of the slot, wrapping and blasting a massive shot past Suchanek to give the Canadians a 5-1 advantage.

The previous Saturday, the reigning US champions (3-0-0) remained unbeaten in a one-sided 7-0 win over Austria (0-3-0).

Austria’s goalie Leon Sommer stopped 49 of the 56 shots he faced.

“I love games like this,” he said with a smile. “Lots of shots.”

Saturday’s workload wasn’t the heaviest Sommer has shouldered in world junior action – he suffered 64 shots in a 11-2 loss to Canada before COVID-19 destroyed the original 2022 tournament in December.

“I guess I’ll get the hard ones,” said the goalkeeper. “But I love them.”

In the last game on Saturday, Germany (1-1-0) meets the winless Switzerland (0-2-0).

Canada will complete the round robin game against Finland (2-0-0) on Monday.

The preliminary round lasts until Monday, the quarter-finals are scheduled for Wednesday. The semi-finals are scheduled for Friday and the medal games will be played next Saturday.

REMARKS: McTavish leads the tournament with 10 points (six goals, four assists). … Canada has beaten their opponents 21-4 in the first three games of the tournament. … Both teams had a day off after Canada beat Slovakia 11-1 on Thursday, while the Czechs lost 4-3 to Finland in a penalty shoot-out on the same day.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 13, 2022.