That's Howden you do it
That's Howden you do it
Fitzpatrick makes 38 saves to beat Czechs
David Quenneville also scored for Canada. Mason Shaw and Dante Fabbro had two assists apiece.
"It feels really good," said Howden, who was inserted into the lineup for his first game. "It’s a good way to start off coming here. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind these last 24 hours. It was a great way to start off with a bunch of great guys."
This was a different kind of test for Canada after hammering Denmark 10-2 in its opener. That game was delayed due to a power outage at the Ralph Engelstad Arena between the first and second periods.
It was a gritty effort for coach Shaun Clouston's crew, but the Canadians took more penalties than they'd like, especially down the stretch.
"Our PK was really strong for us tonight," said Quenneville. "Obviously we took too many penalties. I think we need to get better."
Canada last won U18 gold in 2013, earning bronze last year.
The Czechs, who lost a 4-3 shootout with Finland in their opener, got their lone goal from 16-year-old Filip Zadina.
Playing a smart puck control game enabled the Czechs to stay on even terms with Canada in the early going. But it fell apart late in the first period.
Canada drew first blood when Fabbro slid a nice cross-ice pass to Howden and his release squeezed through sliding Czech goalie Josef Kolenar at 17:41. Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration” resounded from the P.A. for the first time this night.
Czech defenceman Ondrej Kachyna then had a knee-on-knee collision with Michael McLeod and was sent off. McLeod was not injured, but Canada quickly put the hurt on the Czechs with its power play.
At 18:58, Quenneville faked a slap shot from the left faceoff circle and then sent it past Kolenar to make it 2-0.
In the second period, Shaw came over the Czech blue line and blasted a slap shot on goal, and Howden, who plays for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, easily converted the rebound from the doorstep at 5:17.
With about five and a half minutes left in the middle stanza, Zadina had a great chance to put the Czechs on the board on a breakaway, but Fitzpatrick foiled his backhand move.
"It’s a different game for sure [if I score there]," said Zadina. "Next time I’ll try a shot."
The Czechs outshot Canada 22-9 in the middle frame, and 39-28 overall. But it wouldn't be enough.
Of Fitzpatrick's play, Howden said: "He was our backbone tonight. I thought we gave the Czechs too many chances, definitely more than they needed. Fitzpatrick held us in there. If it wasn’t for him, that game could have gone the other way."
At 2:35 of the third, the Czechs finally broke Fitzpatrick's goose egg with a power play tally. Zadina collected the rebound from Libor Hajek's center point drive and tucked a backhand home.
When Canada got caught with too many men on the ice, the Czechs got a two-man advantage for 1:12 midway through the third period, but they couldn't capitalize on this golden opportunity. That sealed the outcome. They didn't pull their goalie for the extra attacker in the dying seconds.
With the result, Canada's all-time record against the Czech Republic at the IIHF U18 World Championship improved to seven wins, one tie, and four losses.
The Czechs surprised the hockey world by earning U18 silver in 2014. Their fate here is still an open question.
Both Canada and the Czechs are off till Monday. Canada faces Slovakia that day and the Czechs take on Denmark.
"Getting our rest is going to be very important," said Clouston.
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