The Czech Republic will face the defending champion Americans in Saturday’s semi-finals in Chelyabinsk.
“I think they play a pretty similar game to Canada,” said Cajka. “We won against them in the USA two months ago. I think it’s going to be a good game for the spectators and us. We are super-excited.”
Magnitogorsk witnessed the biggest upset of the 2018 tournament so far. Matej Blumel also scored for the Czechs in the first period, and Cajka drew the assist.
“It’s something special to beat Canada in such an important game,” said Cajka. “I think we played fantastic. All of the guys gave the maximum. We scored two goals and we won.”
Tylan Dellandrea had the lone goal for Canada.
“I just thought we didn’t come out strong and they got over us quick,” said Dellandrea. “When we needed to have our most important game, we weren’t there. That’s too bad.”
The Canadians looked increasingly frustrated as the game wore on. This was not the way they’d expected it to go. It won’t go down in history with the classic Czech victories over Canada in the 1998 Olympic semi-final or the 2005 World Championship gold medal game, but it was a shocker nonetheless.
“It was a surprise, maybe a miracle,” said Czech defenceman Zack Malik. “We went into this match as outsiders, and it shows to everyone that we are familiar on the ice and outside of the ice. It was an amazing game.”
Nobody could fault either netminder in this tense showdown. Canada’s Olivier Rodrigue, making his third consecutive start, was very good, but Dostal was clutch.
Canada medalled four straight years from 2012 to 2015, winning gold in 2013 under current head coach Don Hay and bronze the other years. But now the Canadians are going home empty-handed for the third straight year at this tournament.
“I thought we competed hard,” said Hay. “Give the Czechs credit. They played a real solid game, and we were always chasing the game.”
The Czechs stunned everyone when they took silver in 2014 – their first medal since 2006’s bronze – with a squad that included David Pastrnak, Jakub Vrana, and Pavel Zacha. Now they will look to score their first medal since then.
Coach David Bruk’s underdogs came out flying in the first period, outshooting Canada 14-7. The Canadians were unable to establish their forecheck early on.
At 11:30, the Czechs opened the scoring. Cajka beat Liam Foudy at the Canadian blue line, creating a 2-on-1, and he fed it across to Blumel, who hesitated before beating Rodrigue low to the stick side.
As the Czechs continued buzzing the Canadian net, Rodrigue had to be sharp to deny Vojtech Strondala in tight and Jan Jenik from the hash marks. At the other end, Dostal said no to Joe Veleno on the rush.
Canada picked up its pace in the second period but still couldn’t find the equalizer. About seven minutes in, Dostal stoned Veleno again on a huge chance at the side of the net. Then during a Canadian power play, he was there again to deny Allan McShane, who went off shaking his head.
“He played a great game,” Dellandrea said of Dostal. “He definitely stood on his head and held them in for their team.”
At 10:03 of the third period, Cajka swung cross-ice into the left faceoff circle and surprised Rodrigue with a glove-side wrister to make it 2-0.
“I just got it from Matej Pekar,” said Cajka. “I just closed my eyes, shot it, and scored.”
At 13:19, Canada fought back. On the power play, Jonathan Tychonick kept the puck in at the line, carried it in and handed it to McShane, who sent a perfect cross-crease pass to Dellandrea to slam into the open side for his second of the tournament.
Canada pushed hard but couldn’t convert during a late slashing minor to Jakub Adamek. With just over a minute left and Rodrigue yanked for the extra attacker, Dostal stoned Lavoie from the slot. Time ran out on Canada’s comeback hopes despite outshooting the Czechs 15-7 in the third and 34-31 overall.
“You can’t have a bad game,” said Hay. “It takes you out of the medal round. We had a great preliminary round, but we didn’t play our best today and that cost us.”
The last time the Czechs beat Canada was 4-3 in the semi-finals on 26 April, 2014 on David Kase’s overtime goal. Canada has dominated the rivalry overall with seven wins, one tie, and five losses. But the latest defeat stings the most for the motherland of hockey.
Meanwhile, the Cinderella Czechs have their eyes on the prize.
“I think our goal is the gold medal,” said Cajka. “We’re going to do our maximum and see what we can do.”
Article source: http://u18worlds2018.iihf.hockey/en/news/can-cze/