Czechs vs. Team Europe
Both teams enjoyed plenty of scoring opportunities early, with both sides taking rather boneheaded penalties in the middle of the period that allowed for both side's offenses to look very tight and composed. Both sides however had some fantastic goaltending work by both Petr Mrazek and Jaroslav Halak that kept things even and balanced on the scoresheet. In terms of momentum? Team Europe still looked quite good, with Mrazek occasionally asked to be very large and very athletic. Kempny took a hooking penalty which followed them into the 2nd.
This is where Europe decided to turn the offense machine straight up. They shelled the Czechs something fierce as they took complete control of the game, and ended up getting the opening tally with none other than Bruins captain Zdeno Chara blasted home a shot that picked Petr Mrazek's shoulder and went in. 1-0
What a bullet. Unfortunately this lead would be short lived as a chip pass to Jake Voracek ended up behind Jaroslav Halak for the tie.
Now I talk about Petr Mrazek, Czech Republic's goaltender. Good god. He was lights out and looked like a million bucks. A big part of that was how little Czech Republic was able to generate offense that meant something as Europe put 21 shots on him in one period and he stopped all but one. Otherwise, this entire period was Team Europe's oyster. And Team Czech Republic had to deal with it.
This was another period in which Petr Mrazek was the star of the game. It also didn't look great for the Czechs as Mrazek put on an absolutely beautiful save to begin things...and immediately gave up another goal to Mats Zuccarello from the same place he just ended up making save of the game. 2-1 Europe.
Not a great look to be honest.
The Czechs managed to finally get into gear of offense by trying to close the gaping chasm of shots on goal, and managed to finally start challenging Jaroslav Halak, who was pretty lights out...minus a Vlad Sobotka shot that got put home by Martin Hanzal. That he couldn't stop. And that put the game tied at 2, and into OT we went as both sides decided to leave it to OT.
There was a nice long shift by the Czech Republic that had decided to give Jaroslav a real test of character. And then Team Europe reestablished possession and gave the puck to Leon Draisaitl.
And then the game was over. Europe shocks everybody, wins 3-2 in OT. And the Czech Republic, injured and slow, waste Mrazek's performance and are eliminated first from the tournament. And this win for the Europeans has huge implications for what happens to Team USA, which will be discussed in the gamethread later today.
North America vs. Russia
Desperate and needing this game, Russia began tough, but very early on North America continued their dominance with Scottsdale's own Auston Matthews redirected a fantastic feed from Connor McDavid to put the Youths up 1-0 early.
That was preeetty...OH GOD HE'S IN THE DIVISION OH WHAT A WOR-
Anyway, while Russia attempted to answer, the underrated NA defense managed to keep the otherwise decent shots of the opponent down. Combined with more slick, beautiful passing and high danger chances, it appeared North America had itself a pretty comfortable game ahead of it...
...except boy did that not happen.
Matt Murray gave up four goals unanswered for most of the period right after the other in a real nightmare period for the North Americans. The first goal that tied it came from Vlad Namestnikov, a minute later Nikita Kucherov ended up putting them ahead, Kuznetsov put a backhander past Murray, and the final break was Vlad Tarasenko picking the corner and ending Murray's night. 4-1. John Gibson would take over from then on.
It wasn't all gloom and doom for Team North America. In spite of Matt Murray breaking down, Morgan Reilly put the youths back within two. I'm not gonna say too much about this because Morgan Reilly was kind of completely responsible for allowing Tarasenko into a position to score in the first place so uh...good on you, Reilly. I hope you're ready to do that more often. 4-2, Russia still held the lead.
...And almost immediately the charge back began. North America responded early with a point blank attack on Sergei Bobrovsky, with Nathan Mackinnon flinging the puck past a downed Bobrovsky. 4-3 Russia still led.
The remaining minutes of the period was effectively North America sitting directly on the head of Team Russia, demanding that they let up a goal. And they didn't. They did all sorts of crazy passing plays and good shots in. And they didn't. The Russians took all sorts of penalties and played extremely sloppily and gave North America every opportunity to tie. And Sergei Bobrovsky didn't let up. They even had to kill a penalty 6 on 4 for the last 40 seconds of the GAME and they still held the damn line. This period, if you can dig up the entire thing, is an absolute joy to watch and it is hockey in both it's best offensively and defensively if you're just looking for a good time watching hockey. Even highlights of this period will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Russia survives, and will take Finland on Thursday night in their final Round Robin game. North America will try to pick up in two days against Sweden.
Bruins at the WCOH:
David Pastrnak had limited minutes as the Czechs played defensively and chased a lead all game. At the end, it seems like they more or less gave up on him playing a shift in the third. Sad, but at least it protects him.
Zdeno Chara had a goal in Europe's win over the Czech Republic, playing 19 minutes and in general looking like the Zdeno Chara that we know and love: strong on the puck, good on the backcheck, and ridiculously omnipresent on defense. This is great for Bruins fans who were worrying more about Big Z's conditioning after last season. I think he'll be fine.