Czech Republic 5, Belarus 3
New York (The Draft Analyst) — Radek Vesely broke a tie late in the third period as the Czech Republic rallied to down Belarus, 5-3, on Wednesday at the world junior hockey championship.
Vesely’s goal came with 5:40 left in regualtion, on a rebound of a his own shot to give the Czech Republic a 4-3 lead. The goal came just over two minutes after left wing Jiri Smejkal erased a 3-2 deficit with a rebound past goalie Ivan Kulbakov. Defenseman Dominik Masin closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal.
The Czech Republic (2-0-1) sits in second place in Group B, and can clinch first place if they beat Finland on Thursday, and Russia loses to Slovakia. They were without star forward Pavel Zacha, the New Jersey Devils draft pick who has been out with a lower body injury.
Simon Stransky, a possible first round pick in the 2016 draft, opened the scoring with his first goal of the tournament with 4:21 left in the first period. Stransky skated up ice with Vesely on a 2-on-1 break and fired a shot right under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.
Belarus responded with three goals in the second, as defenseman Stephen Falkovski, who plays for Ottawa in the Ontario Hockey League, got his country on the board by wristing a 3-on-2 feed over netminder Vítek Vaněček. Seventeen-year-old right wing Yegor Sharangovich’s first career goal at the world juniors came at 9:26 of the second period gave Belarus a 2-1 lead, but the Czechs responded two minutes later when Dominik Lakatos deflected a shot from Boston Bruins prospect David Pastrnak, tying the score 2-2.
Belarus (0-4) retook its last lead at 3-2 when captain Vladislav Goncharov’s slapper from the point beat Vaněček with 2:29 left in the second. Danila Karaban had three assists for the Belorussians, who will play either Switzerland or Denmark in the relegation round. Kulbakov made 45 saves in defeat.
RW RADEK VESELY (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): The influx of CHL stars on the Czech National Team caused somewhat of a demotion for this speedy winger who has been a fixture on the U20 team’s top line for svseral tournaments leading up to the WJC’s. His Extraliga production for Chomutov hasn’t been much, as he’s bounced around on the depth chart, but he’s been impressive on the Czech’s third line with Simon Stransky and Ottaw Senators’ draftee Filip Chlapik, and his constant involvement in plays was rewarded in the form of the his game-winner late in the third period. Vesely is very fast and has a good shot, but it’s his puck hounding which makes him just as dangerous as anybody else.
LW SIMON STRANSKY (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): Stransky got the ball rolling for the Czechs when he collected the puck and raced up ice in a 2-on-1 before firing a shot off the cross bar and in for his first career WJC goal. There were several things to like about the way he approached the odd-man rush; first, he had his head up the whole time, and we don’t mean in one direction either. He clearly surveyed all his options from the time he picked up the puck in his own end right up to the time he ripped one home. Second, his path to the goal made it difficult for the defender to telegraph his intentions — Stransky moved diagonally towards the goal, which forced the defender to take the puck carrier’s shot intentions very seriously. By the time he was close enough to cover Stransky, however, it was too late. He finished with a goal and four shots.
RHD FILIP HRONEK (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): Make that three games in a row where Hronek played a strong game, as he was paired on the right side with double-overager Ondrej Miklis. Neither rearguard should ever be confused as a shutdown defender, but they sure put the clamps on the Belorussians and allowed them little room to operate. Keep in mind that this was a very close game for almost three periods. Hronek picked up an assist on the second Czech goal after he drew a checker right to his position at the blue line before feathering a backhander to an open David Pastrnak, who fired one on goal for a tip-in. Hronek finished a plus-three, and leads all Czech defensemen with two assists in three games.
LHD VLADISLAV GONCHAROV (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): Goncharov is not very big, but he’s engaged in every play. We noticed his anticipation skills were very good, as he kept on finding openings and even created a few on his own. He was constatntly moving his feet with his head up in the offensive zone, which probably has a lot to do with how hard a shot he has. He’s a very good playmaking defenseman with above-avergae skating ability who makes up for his lack of size with smarts and leg strength.
LW DANILA KARABAN (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): The game began ominously for one of the more consistent Belorussian forwards, as he was cut with a skate in the first period. He rebounded quickly, however, and was the linchpin in Belarus owning a surprising 3-2 lead after 40 minutes. Karaban drew an assist on the first Belorussian goal when he picked up a loose puck in his own end and pushed it out of the zone to initiate a 3-on-2 finished by defenseman Stephen Falkovski. He drew the first of two primary assists when he made a nice deflection on goal off a Falkovski shot, which youngster Yegor Sharangovich stuffed in on the rebound. His final assist of the game was a set up of Goncharov’s one-time goal on the power play.
LHD STEPAN FALKOVSKI (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): Falkovski’s been a busy guy logging top-pairing minutes for a Belorussian team which was constantly pinned in its own end for most of the competition. He had a goal and an assist, but both were the byproduct of aggressiveness and keen awareness of the situation on the ice. In fact, if you watch his assist on Sharangovich’s goal, Falkovski almost slap-passes right into the slot for Karaban to make a perfect deflection on goal. He’s got a late-1996 birthday, and he’s been the Ottawa 67’s top defender through the first half of the season. He can skate well for his size, and his no-nonsense approach to handling the puck away from the safety of his own zone is something to see him do more once he returns to OHL action.