CZECHS EDGE EAST, EARN FINAL SEMIFINAL SPOT AT WJAC
JASON LA ROSE
BONNYVILLE, Alta. – Zdenek Sedlak scored once in each period, finishing his hat trick into an empty net to send the Czech Republic past Canada East 4-2 on Friday night and into the semifinals at the 2018 World Junior A Challenge.
The Czechs will face unbeaten Russia in the first semifinal Saturday (2 p.m. MT).
Needing a win in regulation time to jump the Czechs for the final playoff spot, East took a very early lead when Spencer Kersten (Waterloo, Ont./Oakville, OJHL) came off the half-boards and snapped a quick shot that got past goaltender Daniel Dvorak to the glove side.
Sedlak got the Europeans even less than three minutes later, taking a beautiful stretch pass from Jakub Muller and beating Canadian netminder Liam Soulière (Amos, Que./Brockville, CCHL) to send the game to the first intermission even.
He added a second goal seven minutes into the second period when a point shot from Zack Malik hit Sedlak and popped up and over Soulière for a 2-1 advantage after 40 minutes.
With time ticking away on the tournament for the Canadians, Cade Townend (Carleton Place, Ont./Carleton Place, CCHL) got the first of the two goals they needed with 4:31 to go, toe-dragging around a sprawling Czech defender before rifling a shot upstairs on Dvorak.
Soulière went to the bench with two minutes to go, but Sedlak hit the empty net from the 180 feet away to clinch the victory for the Czechs, who are into the final four for the third year in a row.
Matej Blumel finished the scoring with another empty-netter in the final minute.
Both goaltenders turned in tremendous performances; Dvorak stopped 42 of 44 shots in the win, while Soulière was a hard-luck loser after a 32-save effort.