In the final day of tune-up games before the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup, the two host countries faced the tournament’s two North American teams, as usual. in Břeclav, Canada edged the Czech Republic 3-1 in a hard-fought game, while in Bratislava, the USA scored four straight power-play goals to rout Slovakia 7-2.
Czech Republic 1 – 3 Canada
Goals and assists: 9. Zábranský (Čajka) – 6. Thomas (Hayton), 19. Addison (Thomas, Hayton), 54. Dudas (Burzan, Groulx).
In each team’s first competitive game of the new season, the Canadians built a 2-1 lead after one period, thanks to two points each from Akil Thomas and Barrett Hayton, and then added a late marker for a 3-1 victory. Thomas and Libor Zabransky traded goals in the first 8:05 of a back-and-forth first period, and Calen Anderson scored the eventual game-winner on a power play late in the period. After that, the pace of the game slowed down somewhat, and got chippy in the third period, with several skirmishes after whistles. Aidan Dudas added an insurance marker with 6:33 to play with a nice deflection.
Both teams used both goalies in the game, with Lukas Dostal and Alexis Gravel starting and getting relieved by Olivier Rodrigue and Daniel Dvorak, respectively, just past the halfway mark of the second period.
“We had good moments in the game, of course, but there were also places where we were under a lot of pressure and did some things badly,” said Czech coach David Bruk. “We’ll go over it and tomorrow we’ll talk with the boys about how to deal with the situations. It is clear, of course, that Canada was better than us, but we stayed the game. If we continue and improve, then we will see what it will be like in the tournament. But we have a problem with finishing – we are creating too few shooting opportunities and we are struggling with finishing around the net.”
“It was interesting, we worked hard, and we got our first taste of international reffing, which was different, for sure,” said Canadian coach Brent Kisio after the game and less than 48 hours after his team landed in Europe. “We’re going to learn from that, but give credit to the Czechs. They played really hard, they’ve got a great team, and it was a fun game. It was a hard-fought game, especially for a friendly match like that, and that’s what you want going into the tournament.”
Slovakia 2 – 7 USA
Goals and assists: 11. M. Bučko (O. Okuliar, K. Kováčik), 46. Pjaták (PS) – 5. Jenkins, 20. J. Drury (Ch. Krygier, W. MacKinnon), 29. Hain (Savage), 39. Lapointe (Jenkins, Donovan), 40. A. Samuelsson (McLaughlin), 46. C. Hall (Savage, Demin), 50. Jenkins.
Meanwhile, in the Slovak capital, the USA and Slovakia were each playing their last of two pre-tournament games. On Thursday, the Americans beat Hungary’s U20 team 4-2, while Slovakia fell 4-1 to Belarus. In this game, the Americans led 2-1 after one period but broke it open with four straight power-play goals in the second and early third, then cruised to victory.
Blade Jenkins scored the game’s first and last goals and added one assist in the middle. Martin Bucko scored the first Slovak goal midway through the first period, which tied the game 1-1. With exactly 14:00 to play, Simeon Pjatak scored Slovakia’s second goal on a penalty shot.
“We turned over the puck a lot in the first period, which gave them the chance to take control of the game, even though they didn’t score on all of them,” stated Slovak coach Norbert Javorcik. “I thought we actually played better in the second period, except when we were killing penalties, which is what cost us. We had some better moments in the third period, but by then it was decided in the Americans’ favour.”
“I don’t think the game was indicative of the score,” felt U.S. coach Clark Donatelli, who coached the team to a berth in the final last year. “I thought Slovakia came out with a lot of intensity and were pretty physical. But I like the way we played here. Our power play was clicking and our compete level was good. I think the guys did a lot better tonight playing with structure than the other night. We made a couple tweaks after that game, and we were really happy with the way we played today, especially on special teams.”