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Kerry Collins, Published April 14 2009

Canada comes up clutch in OT

Five good minutes erased two mediocre periods, and then one great rush kept Canada unbeaten at the IIHF World U18 Championship.

The Canadians erased a three-goal deficit early in the third period and then Brett Connolly’s goal in overtime gave them a 4-3 OT victory over the Czech Republic at Urban Plains Center.

“We’re Canadian players, and Canadians are always very clutch,” said defenseman Erik Gudbranson. “We rallied in the locker room, and the coaches laid it on the line for us.”

Connolly’s decisive goal came on a rebound. After Czech goaltender Filip Novotny stopped a shot from Byron Froese and another by Simon Despres, Connolly banged home the winner.

“We just went to the net on that one, and it worked,” Connolly said. “After we got the first couple in the third, we had a lot of momentum.”

The Czech’s outskated and outshot Canada through the first two periods to stake a 3-0 lead.

But Canada got early goals from Byron Froese and Ryan O’Reilly, and then a power-play goal from Gudbranson at the 5:08 mark of the third to tie it up.

Canada had a power play for the first two minutes of the third, and was 5-on-3 for the opening minute. Froese’s goal came six seconds after the penalty expired, and O’Reilly’s came 10 seconds later.

“We started on the penalty kill in the third period, so there was more pressure right away,” said Czech goaltender Filip Novotny through a translator. “Maybe we were thinking about the win more because we were up 3-0.”

Novotny stopped 20 shots in the third period, and finished with 47 saves in the game.

The Czechs got on the board first late in the opening period when Antonin Honejsek flipped one in at the 15:35 mark.

They added two more goals in the second period, getting scores from Michal Poletin and Roman Horak for the three-goal lead.

“I didn’t feel like we were skating in the first two periods, and we have to really be skating,” Canada coach Mike Johnston said. “You have to respect every opponent in this tournament, and maybe we were looking past them a bit.”

The Canadians wrap up pool play against Sweden at 4 p.m. today at Urban Plains Center.

Sweden is also unbeaten after hammering Switzerland 11-0 on Monday, meaning the winner of today’s game gets a bye into the semifinals of the medal round.

FIRST PERIOD: 1, CR, Honejsek (Poletin), 15:35.

SECOND PERIOD: 2, CR, Poletin (Honejsek, Soudek), 32:27. 3, CR, R. Horak (Krejci), 36:44.

THIRD PERIOD: 4, C, Froese (McFarland), 42:06. 5, C, O’Reilly (Holland, Mitchell), 2:16. 6, C, Gudbranson (Connolly), 5:08 (pp).

OVERTIME: 7, C, Connolly (Despes, Froese), 61:23.

SAVES: CR, Novotny 11-13-20-3—47. C, Zador 9-17-4-0—30.

A: 1,307.


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548.

Collins’ blogs can be found

at www.areavoices.com