CANADA SPREADS AROUND OFFENCE, DOWNS CZECHS
JASON LA ROSE
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Morgan Frost (Aurora, Ont./Sault Ste. Marie, OHL) led the way with a goal and an assist, and five different players found the back of the net to help Canada’s National Junior Team upend the Czech Republic 5-1 on Saturday night at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Michael DiPietro (Amherstburg, Ont./Ottawa, OHL) was rock solid in a 23-save performance between the pipes, backstopping Canada to its third-consecutive win in front of 17,012 red-and-white-clad fans at Rogers Arena.
“As the games go on, my confidence keeps building,” DiPietro said. “You get more comfortable playing in front of a bigger crowd, and I think our game is really building, so it’s a positive.”
Jack Studnicka (Tecumseh, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) and Ty Smith (Lloydminster, Alta./Spokane, WHL) joined Frost as multi-point scorers, recording a pair of assists apiece. In total, 12 players had at least a point in the win.
The scoring started early, and it was the captain doing the honours; a shot from Maxime Comtois (Longueuil, Que./Drummondville, QMJHL) bounced off the backside of a Czech player and past goaltender Jiri Patera just 6:03 in.
Ondrej Machala answered only 37 seconds later, finishing off a two-on-one with Jan Jenik to tie the game, but the rest of the first period belonged to the Canadians.
Brett Leason (Calgary, Alta./Prince Albert, WHL) restored the lead at 11:32, redirecting a shot from Smith past Patera for a power-play goal, and Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) lasered home a one-timer at 16:39 to send Canada to the intermission up by a pair.
DiPietro made his best saves in the second period, denying Machala and Jenik on back-to-back point-blank chances early in the middle frame.
MacKenzie Entwistle (Georgetown, Ont./Hamilton, OHL) made it three goals in three games just shy of the 15-minute mark, going short-side past the glove of Patera to make it a 4-1 game after 40 minutes.
“I’m building some chemistry with my linemates,” Entwistle said. “Joe [Veleno] and Jack [Studnicka] had a big game for us tonight, and it’s making it fun to play with them. It was nice to get that goal, and it was a good team win tonight.”
Patera would be done after two periods, replaced by Jakub Skarek after allowing four goals on 20 shots.
The Canadian power play went to work again to finish the scoring in the third; Nick Suzuki (London, Ont./Owen Sound, OHL) found Frost with a back-door feed, and he buried his fourth goal and tournament-leading seventh point.
After a day off Sunday, Canada closes out the preliminary round on Monday night (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT), facing Russia in a New Year’s Eve showdown that could decide first place in Group A.