CZECHS SHOCK RUSSIANS, BOOK SEMIFINAL SPOT AT U17S
JASON LA ROSE
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Matej Toman scored twice in a span of 2:23 in the second period, sending the Czech Republic into the semifinals at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with a 4-3 upset win over previously-unbeaten Russia in quarter-final action Thursday.
The Czechs are into the final four for the first time since they won bronze at the 2006 tournament in Regina, Sask. They will face the winner of the Canada Red-Canada Black quarter-final in the semis on Friday.
Ondrej Psenicka and Jaromir Pytlik had the other goals for the Czech Republic, who got 36 saves from Nick Malik in a tremendous performance.
Russia jumped into the early lead when Artemii Kniazev got his point shot through traffic and past Malik just past the midway mark of the first period, but Psenicka knocked in a loose puck from in close less than four minutes later to draw the Czechs even.
Malik was busiest in the opening 20 minutes, turning away 15 of 16 shots.
Toman took over in the second; he showed good patience to outwait Russian goaltender Vsevolod Skotnikov before tucking in the 2-1 goal at 10:54, and toe-dragged around a defender before roofing a shot past Skotnikov at 13:17 to put the Czechs ahead for good.
Daniil Gutik got the Russians back within one just four minutes into the third period, racing down the right wing and wiring a shot over the short-side shoulder of Malik, only for Pytlik to finish a give-and-go with Matej Morong to restore the two-goal advantage just shy of the 12-minute mark.
Danil Gushchin made it interesting with less than three minutes left, going five-hole on Malik after a gorgeous stretch pass from Kniazev, but that would be it for scoring.
It is the third year in a row that a No. 4 seed has beaten a group winner in the quarter-finals – Canada White beat Canada Red last year, and Sweden topped the United States in 2015.
The Russians will play in the fifth-place game on Friday, with time and opponent to be determined.