The Czech Republic and Belarus aren’t exactly big draws on the international stage, but boy did they deliver this afternoon in buffalo. In a surprising barn burner, both teams combined for 11 goals and played the type of loose, fun hockey that fans have come to expect from this tournament.
The Czechs had some great chances early on, but were sloppy in their own zone, allowing Yegor Sharangovich to give Belarus the lead midway through the first frame. The teams traded chances for the remainder of the period but to no avail, as the first period ended with 1-0 lead for Belarus.
They would strike again just 48 seconds into the middle frame, courtesy of a nifty backhand by Ivan Drozdov. Czech coach Filip Pesan clearly wasn’t impressed with his team’s performance, giving goaltender Josef Korenar the hook and replacing him with Jakub Skarek in an effort to spark the team. The move would pay off, as the Czechs went on to score five unanswered goals in the second, two coming from Radovan Pavlik with Libor Hajek, Filip Zadina, and Filip Chytil rounding out the remaining three tallies. Sharangovich would add another goal for Belarus, but they still found themselves at a two-goal deficit heading into the third.
Belarus would battle back hard and twice find themselves within a goal of the Czech Republic, but that’s as close as they ever came. A goal from Czech captain Marek Zachar was enough insurance to keep Belarus at arms length, with a final score of 6-5.
- Yegor Sharangovich was easily Belarus’ best player this morning, tallying two power play goals and leading his team in shots, with four. Craig Button repeated throughout the broadcast that he believed Sharangovich would not pass through the draft this year, and he made a strong case today that he’s worth a mid-to-late round pick.
- 2018 draft-eligible Filip Zadina continues to show why he should be the third player called this June after the presumptive top-two of Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov. He’s been all over the ice in this tournament, making himself noticeable, usually for the right reasons. He’s a raw talent, and can occasionally get caught forcing a play where there isn’t one; but he has high-end skill. He showed off a lightning quick release on his power play goal this morning, but just as impressive was his game-high 7(!) shots on goal.
- Rangers 2017 first rounder Filip Chytil has arguably been the best player for the Czechs in the early goings of this tournament. He finished the night with two points and was a scoring chance-generating machine, looking every bit as good as his more highly-touted countryman Martin Necas. Nobody saw this coming.
- You had to feel sorry for the goaltenders in this one. It’s bad enough getting chased out of the net, but Andrei Grishenko also got his bell rung pretty badly when Chytil collided with him going top speed towards the net. He appeared shaken but was able to stay in the game.