A trio of second-period goals sees off a spirited Czech team and keeps Canada on the World Championship medal trail in Dmitrov.
Canada dominated from start to finish in a convincing quarter-final victory over the Czech Republic to set up a semi-final showdown with the USA.
Only some inspired goaltending from Kristyna Blahova kept the Canadians from taking the lead during the first period. The Slavia Prague goalie turned away 17 shots and endured some intense pressure as Canada looked to erase the memory of its 6-2 loss against the Americans just 24 hours earlier.
Canadian forward Maggie Connors agreed that the team had answered some of the questions asked of it overnight.
“A lot of it was just about regrouping,” she said. “We talked a lot about believing, and we know that we can still do well in this tournament. We certainly answered everything that our coaches asked of us.”
For the Czechs, who topped Group B thanks to a victory over Finland in their third game, this was a tough examination. The effective line of Kristyna Kaltounkova, Laura Lerchova and Barbora Machalova was starved of opportunities in the opposition zone as Canada established a stranglehold on the game that gave it everything except an opening goal.
“Their goalie did really well,” Connors added. “She was always there at the right time but we felt like as soon as we got that first one off we could start building a lead.”
As Connors suggested, the first goal was only a matter of time. The pressure continued in the second period, and the chances were getting more and more dangerous. Blahova made a big save to deny Sarah Fillier when Canada’s captain went clean through on the net, and was then relieved to see Maggie Connors’ shot bounce clear off the near post. But the Czechs could not get the puck away from danger, and when the goalie misjudged Allexis Adzija’s pass across the front of the net, Courtney Correia was on hand to squeeze a shot back into the open net as two defenders desperately tried to hack it clear.
The last thing the Czechs needed now was a penalty, but Agata Sarnovska’s illegal hit gave Canada a power play chance and after Claire Dalton shot narrowly wide, Willow Slobodzian fired home a one-timer off Courtney Vorster’s feed.
Not even a Czech power play could ease the pressure on Blahova, with Abygail Moloughney racing clear from a defensive face-off but shooting too high. A third goal was not long in coming, however, and when Grace Shirley whipped in a shot from the face-off spot, Courtney Kollman was on hand to reach out her stick and deflect the puck beyond Blahova’s reach.
A 5-on-3 situation at the start of the third period offered some hope to the Czechs, and Adela Skrdlova took advantage when she fired in a pass from Lerchova to reduce the deficit. Encouraged, the team showed greater initiative in the closing stages, but a one-on-one chance for Tereza Mazancova and Anna Kotounova’s long-range shot against the post on a late power play were the closest the European team came to making it a one-goal game.
“We knew the Czechs would come at us hard in the third and we just wanted to make sure that there was no way back for them,” Connors added. “In the end, it all came down to our work ethic. Whatever we say about systems, we can’t use them if we don’t have that work ethic throughout the game.”
Canada’s win sends it to a semi-final match-up against the USA, while the Czechs now look forward to a 5th-6th placement game against the loser in tonight’s Russia-Finland quarter-final.