Cirelli, Ingram lead Canada over Czech Republic in pre-tournament play
OTTAWA – Canada isn’t getting too far ahead of themselves despite two straight shutout wins in pre-tournament play at the world junior hockey championship.
Anthony Cirelli struck twice and Tyson Jost added a goal and an assist Wednesday night as Canada defeated the Czech Republic 5-0.
“I don’t think we overlooked those teams. They’re still good teams and obviously the best (players) in their country,” said Jost.
Dylan Strome and Julien Gauthier also found the back of the net for Canada, which outshot the Czechs 36-20. Connor Ingram stopped all 20 shots he faced for the shutout.
Canada also shutout the Czech Republic 8-0 last week in Boisbriand, Que., during its evaluation camp before final roster cuts. The Canadians blanked Finland 5-0 on Monday night in Montreal to open its exhibition schedule.
“I’m really happy with how we’re playing, but I think we’re getting really excited for the 26th, it’s just around the corner,” said Jost, in reference to the Canadians’ tournament opener on Boxing Day against Russia.
“It’s hard not to get excited. It’s something you dream about for a long time so we’re getting anxious. Everybody is good in this tournament so we have to bring our ‘A’ game every night.”
Cirelli scored his second goal on a breakaway at 14:09 of the third period to punctuate a dominant performance by the Canadians.
It didn’t take Canada long to get going as it opened a 3-0 lead by the end of the first period.
Cirelli scored at 2:13 of the first by using the back side of his stick to redirect a centering pass from Blake Speers past Czech goalie Daniel Vladar.
“Everyone here is top elite players so if it looked easy it definitely wasn’t. We had to work hard for everything we got,” said Cirelli.
“We just want to work on what we can control and gel as a team. These are pre-tournament games to get us going in the right direction and it always helps getting some practice in. It’s also nice scoring goals but it was a complete team effort and a big win for us. We’re just trying to get better.”
The lead was increased to 2-0 when Jost scored at 10:59, just nine seconds into Canada’s first power play of the game as Jan Dufek sat in the box for delay of game. Jost took a backdoor pass from Nicolas Roy and had an open net to shoot at.
The Canadians went up 3-0 at 16:52 when Strome beat Vladar from the top of the faceoff circle with a perfectly placed shot just inside the far post. Gauthier scored his team’s second power-play goal of the night when he beat Vladar with a one-timer from the top of the faceoff circle to the goaltender’s left to give Canada a four-goal advantage.
The Canadians got sloppy trying to clear their zone early in the second and a turnover at the blue line sent Radek Koblizek on a breakaway but he failed trying to go five-hole on Ingram. Lukas Andel had a breakaway from centre ice shortly after Gauthier’s goal, but he too was unable to beat the Canadian goaltender.
“When you play against Canada, you play against the best players in our age, so I think we did a pretty good job,” said Czech defenceman Petr Kalina.
“We learned from the last game when we lost 8-0 and we had chances with a couple of breakaways and if we score these goals we could have done well against this team. I think we have to work on our defence. A team like ours, we have to use the structure and if every guy does what we need him to we can be successful.”
Canada faces Switzerland in Toronto on Friday night in its final pre-tournament game before preliminary play opens on Dec. 26. The Czech Republic also plays Friday against the United States in Kingston, Ont., before starting its tournament against Finland in Montreal on Boxing Day.