Canada downs Czech Republic in opener at World Junior Ice Hockey Championship
This year’s World Under-20 Ice Hockey Championship got underway in Pardubice, East Bohemia on Wednesday, with the Czechs hoping for a strong tournament on home turf. Last year they finished a disappointing fifth and fans – who have helped sell out the 10,000+ Cez Arena in Pardubice – are hoping this year they’ll finish at least two better. But it won’t be easy. On Wednesday the Czechs got off to a losing start: despite a strong performance in their opener, they were beaten by three-time defending champions, Canada. The final score was 3:0.
It was in the second that the Czechs fell behind. Canada’s Tavares was the first to score halfway in, and Matthew Halischuk doubled the lead early into the third. Tavares then scored again with some seven minutes remaining, which is how it stayed. Despite the lopsided score – and failing to get onto the scoreboard - the Czech junior team’s coach Miloslav Horava was not disappointed with his team’s game, although he made clear the team still needed to play better.
Ice hockey – even at the junior level – is a serious business for Czech fans and they are far from alone: out of the ten thousand in attendance in the Czech-Canada game, one thousand were Canadian supporters in the Czech Republic to cheer their team to what they hope will be a fourth consecutive title. That is still a long way off. The Czechs, who also want a shot, not least before a buoyant home crowd, also have their next matches to consider and will need to rebound and regroup. They next face Denmark on Thursday and later clash with former compatriots Slovakia as well as Sweden.