Czechia scores late to eliminate Canada from world juniors

Jakub Stancl scored his second goal of the game with 11.7 seconds left in third period as Czechia survived a blown 2-0 lead to defeat Canada 3-2 and advance to the semifinals at the world junior hockey championship on Tuesday.

Tomas Cibulka had the other goal for Czechia. Michael Hrabal made 28 saves to get the win.

Canada players react by the bench following the game-winning goal by Czechia’s Jakub Stancl (not shown) during third period quarter-final hockey action at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christinne Muschi

Matthew Wood and Jake Furlong replied for Canada. Mathis Rousseau made 19 saves and took the loss in his fifth straight start at the under-20 tournament.

“It feels like the world’s ending a bit,” Canada captain Fraser Minten said. “Such an unbelievable opportunity for all of us in our careers. You never really know if you’re going to get another look representing your country or playing on such a global stage.”

The Canadians carried the play for most of the final 40 minutes before Stancl fired a shot on goal in the dying seconds of regulation that deflected off the leg of Canadian defenceman Oliver Bonk — the son of former NHLer Radek Bonk — and beat a stunned Rousseau.

“Felt like I gripped my stick a bit too tight,” said Canada forward Matthew Poitras. “I couldn’t find the back of the net. It sucks. I feel like I kind of let some of these guys down, let the country down.”

Tuesday’s quarterfinal was a rematch of last year’s gold-medal matchup in Halifax, which Canada took 3-2 in overtime. Five members of that Czech team dressed Tuesday, while forward Owen Beck was Canada’s lone returnee.

“Our heads are kind of just spinning right now,” said Beck. “Not really sure what happened. It’s a horrible way to end things off here.”

Canadian winger Matthew Savoie returned to the lineup Tuesday from a lower-body injury after sitting out Sunday’s 6-3 win over Germany.

Conor Geekie was also back for Canada. The big forward avoided a suspension from the International Ice Hockey Federation’s disciplinary panel following his game misconduct for an illegal check to the head just 11 seconds into Sunday.

Down 2-0 to Czechia through 20 minutes, Rousseau stopped Eduard Sale on a 2-on-1 early in the second.

Wood then took a pass from Easton Cowan a few minutes later to score his second and cut Czechia’s lead in half at 3:43 and give the travelling Canadian fans hope.

The team in red continued to press as the period wore on, and Furlong finally got the equalizer with 3:20 left when his point shot beat the six-foot-seven Hrabal with Geekie in front.

Canada couldn’t do anything with the game’s first power play early in the third before Brayden Yager hit the post from the slot.

Savoie had a great chance with just over four minutes to go in regulation, but sent his shot wide.

Canada, minus five eligible players in the pros and two more out due to injury or illness, had a good start to the game, but passed on a couple of good shooting opportunities.

Looking for a third straight gold medal, and the country’s 21st overall, the Canadians fell behind 1-0 at 7:51 of the first when defenceman Noah Warren made a bad read in the neutral zone and Stancl fired his second of the tournament short side on Rousseau.

Czechia got a penalty shot when Warren slashed Dominik Rymon on a breakaway, but Rousseau made the save with a poke check.

The Canadian goaltender, who entered with a .924 save percentage in four starts, was at fault on the 2-0 goal with 1:59 left in the period when Cibulka fired a point shot through a screen that found its way through Rousseau.

The 19-year-old undrafted netminder responded with that big stop early in the second before his teammates finally broke through on the hulking Hrabal.

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