It wasn’t quite to the magnitude of what Buffalo Bills did on Sunday, but the Czech Republic just ended a long-drought of their own.
The Czech ended a 13-year semifinal drought in the World Juniors Tuesday afternoon with a 4-3 shootout win over Finland.
“We wanted to win and we did it,” said Filip Zadina, who scored a pair in the game making him tied for the tournament’s leading goal-scorer. “We deserved it.”
Martin Necas lead the way on the offensive end with a goal and two assists, while goalie Josef Korenar was the star stopping 51 of 54 shots faced in regulation and overtime.
“It’s unbelievable. He’s the best,” Zadina said of Korenar. “Big thanks to him.”
After Finland’s Urho Vaakanainen went to the box the Czech Republic pounded on their first power play of the day as Necas found Zadina in the slot to take the one-goal lead. Finland had the aggressive offensive attack outshooting the Fins in the opening period 16-4 but only had a few good chances to score.
Finland got some more chances in the second period and converted to tie the game just three minutes into the second. Aapeli Rasanen put home the rebound off a shot from Edmonton’s 2017 first-round pick, Kristian Vesalainen, on the man-advantage.
Otto Koivula had a chance to put Finland up a few minutes later on a 3-on-1 rush. Koivula was at the front of the net but the incoming pass jumped off his stick.
Finland took the lead as Top-five 2016 NHL draft pick and Canucks prospect Olli Juolevi fired it top shelf for the goal. Kristian Reichel picked up a loose puck and beat Finland goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with the backhand on a breakaway goal to tie the game up at two during the break.
Vesalainen gave Finland the lead by going to the net after sending a pass over to Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen’s shot went off the goalie into open space in front of the net and Vesalainen knocked it in with 13 minutes left in the third.
The Czech Republic got some last-minute magic as Zadina tipped the puck in 5-hole with two and half minutes left in the third to take the game to overtime.
In the shootout, Reichel and Necas both scored in for the Czech while Vesalainen put one in for Finland.
It’s the end of the road for the Finland and Luukkonen. Finland went 2-0-3 this year in World Juniors, with wins over Denmark and Slovakia.
Lukkonen had trouble against the skilled shooters from the US and Canada. He finished the tournament stopping 88% of the 132 shots faced in the five games.
Fellow Sabres’ prospect Vojtech Budik was on the other side of Tuesday’s game getting an assist in the win.
He’s been excited to show off his skills in front of what may be his future fans.
“It’s special for me to play in Buffalo, everyone is watching me,” said Budik, who has four assists so far this tournament.
The Czech will take on the winner of the Canada/Switzerland game, Thursday in the semifinals back at the KeyBank Center.