Czech Republic 2, Slovakia 0
New York (The Draft Analyst) — David Pastrnak scored the deciding goal in his return to the World Junior Championship and Vítek Vaněček stopped all 18 shots he faced to give the Czech Republic a 2-0 win over rival Slovakia in preliminary round action from Helsinki, Finland.
Pastrnak, a Boston Bruins first round pick who did not play in Saturday’s 2-1 shootout loss to Russia, gave the Czech Republic a 1-0 lead with a power play goal late in the second period. He fired a wrist shot from the left circle through a screen provided by teammate Jiri Smejkal and past goalie Adam Huska.
Dominik Lakatos scored an insurance marker midway through the third when the puck deflected off his skate towards Slovakia’s Erik Cernak, who inadvertently kicked the puck into his own net.
The Czech Republic, which has not medaled in the competition since a bronze medal in 2005, evened its record to 1-1, while Slovakia also lost after winning its previous game. The Slovaks eliminated the Czechs in last year’s quarterfinal.
Huska was solid while facing a barrage of chances. The New York Rangers’ draftee made 32 saves in defeat.
RW DAVID PASTRNAK (Boston 1st/2014): Pastrnak and his involvement in the tournament was a hot topic before it began, specifically on whether or not his fractured left foot would heal in time. Boston sure did the Czech Republic a real solid by getting him to Providence (AHL) for a conditioning stint, because he looked great in his first game of the 2016 competition. His decision to wire a heavy shot from the circle on the power play could be considered a low-percentage chance. But when you see his head up, and identifying teammate Jiri Smejkal blinding Slovak goalie Adam Huska, the decision made complete sense. He essentially replaced the injured Pavel Zacha alongside Michael Spacek on the Czechs’ top line, and produced a better all-around effort.
LW SIMON STRANSKY (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): Stransky had another solid game and saw him ice time increase. He’s known more for his playmaking ability, but he’s been playing the role of a shooter through two games in Helsinki. Stransky’s compete level was significant, so we won’t dock him points for getting outworked or outmuscled by older, more mature defenders. His best chance was a hard low shot from the top of the left circle which forced Huska to make a tough save
RHD FILIP HRONEK (2016 Draft Eligible/1997): Second straight game where Hronek has shown he’s able to hang with the big boys from a physical standpoint. He was more involved offensively, as he always looked for his trademark home-run pass up the ice. His aggressive style was crucial in the second goal, as he jumped into the play to fire a shot from the slot which forced Huska to make a tough save. Hronek was also used late in a close game, so tt’s been an impressive WJC thus far for someone who was a bit under the radar heading into the tournament.
RW DOMINIK LAKATOS (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): Hard worker who was rewarded with a flukey goal in the third period after being involved in some of the Czechs’ best opportunities. Lakatos finished with a game-high seven shots on net, but we actually counted a few more. He was strong on the puck and was able to stickhandle in and around traffic. It was an otherwise ugly game for the Czechs in terms of offense, but Lakatos was one of the few forwards who stood out.
G ADAM HUSKA (New York Rangers 7th/2015): Second straight impressive performance for this USHL’er, whose net awareness is really impressive considering how young he is. Huska played his angles perfectly the entire night, and did his best to minimize the angle on Patrnak’s goal, which upon review was a perfectly placed snipe through a screen. Goalies his age are rarely expected to direct their pad saves with authority, but Huska did so on several occasions. His ability to reset quickly after blocked shots or fakes is critical for somebody who stands 6’3, but even more impressive was his actual post-save recovery.
RW KRISTIAN POSPISIL (2016 Draft Eligible/1996): Pospisil had a quieter match against the Czechs after a dominant game in the win against Belarus. He’s still an intriguing prospect because of his size-skill combination and exposure from playing in Blaineville-Boisbriand of the QMJHL. He and his linemates were kept to the outside for most of the game, and he took a penalty in the first period when monentum began to swing away from the Slovaks.
RHD CHRISTIAN JAROS (Ottawa 5th/2015) and RHD ERIK CERNAK (Los Angeles 2nd/2015): These guys were so good we had to lump them together, and not because they are two of Slovakia’s notable talents. Both played the right side and had to make some serious adjustments since Slovakian forwards were unable to generate anything on offense. They made well-timed pinches and even ventured into the circles looking for a juicy opportunity. Most impressive were their shot-blocking abilities and stick discipline during the penalty kill.