BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JANUARY 4: Canada's Drake Batherson #19 celebrates with Robert Thomas #27 and Boris Katchouk #12 after a second period goal against the Czech Republic during semifinal round action at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Batherson puts Canada in gold game
The Czechs scored first—and almost second—but then took two penalties that cost them the lead and, really, the game.
In the end, it was close for only a brief time. And then it wasn’t. Canada used its high-powered offense and fantastic power play to blast through the Czech defence and win decisively, 7-2.
Drake Batherson had three goals for the winners while Filip Zadina had both goals for the Czechs. Those two players are now tied for the goalscoring lead in the tournament, each with seven.
Canada has never lost to the Czechs in the playoff round since the format was introduced in 1996. The win puts Canada in the gold-medal game with Sweden tomorrow night. It’s the third time in four years the Canadians are in the finals.
"It’s good to celebrate now, but tomorrow we’ve got to get up and do it again," said winning goalie Carter Hart. "This win is over with now. It’s time to prepare for the real deal. The thing that makes this win sweeter is if we win tomorrow. That’s the only thing that matters."
"I think we need to be having our best game tomorrow," said Canada's coach, Dominique Ducharme. "It’s going to be quite a game."
The Czechs will play the United States for bronze in the early game tomorrow.
"It was a tough loss," said Zadina. "We tried to play how we wanted, and in the first period we did it. In the second and last period, it was so hard to play on the PK. We will do anything for the win tomorrow. We will die on the ice. We want to win a medal for the Czech Republic."
Canada’s vaunted power play brought the team back to life late in the first period. In all, it scored three goals on the night and now has 13 goals in six games. Overall, the nation has 36 goals in the tournament, far and away the most. Sweden, with 27, is second in total offense.
The Czechs stunned the pro-Canadian crowd by opening the scoring at 5:55. Zadina and Martin Necas came over the Canadian blue line on a two-on-two. Zadina took the pass, turned Kale Clague inside out, and fired a short-side shot over the glove of Carter Hart.
"That first goal was more of a wakeup call for us," Batherson said. "After that, we played our game and showed our true colours."
Soon after, Necas, who is tied for the tournament scoring lead with ten points, hit the crossbar on a Czech power play, a costly miss as fortune would have it.
Canada tied the score on a power play of its own at 15:05 when Sam Steel ripped a one-timer that demolished the net cam in the middle of the net.
Albert Michnac was then penalized for clearing the puck over the glass and Canada struck again, this time with only three seconds left in the man advantage. Cale Makar’s quick point shot was deflected by Batherson in front at 18:08, and a game that might have been 2-0 Czechs early was now 2-1 Canada after 20 minutes.
This Makar-Batherson combo struck again on a power play at 7:48 of the second, making it a 3-1 game.
At this point, Canada had scored 13 goals on just 22 power-play chances in the tournament, an astounding 59 per cent rate of success.
The Canadians then scored two quick five-on-five goals. The first was initiated by Brett Howden who nullified an icing call with great hustle. He then threaded a pass to Maxime Comtois, who converted from close range at 9:43.
At 12:15, Jordan Kyrou made it 5-1, and when Batherson scored his hat-trick goal on a bad-angle shot, Czech coach Filip Pesan pulled Korenar in favour of Jakub Skarek.
Skarek was good the rest of the period but he surrendered a goal early in the third on a bullet wrist shot from Boris Katchouk from the slot to make it 7-1.
Zadina closed out the scoring with a good second effort, shovelling in a rebound Hart couldn't control.
"Through the guys who are returning, what they went through last year, it was tough," said captain Dillon Dube of last year's heart-breaking loss by Canada in the gold-medal game. "But I think that’s great. It gives us more motivation. It’d be unbelievable, but I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves here, and just really focus on the first period tomorrow."