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Canada cruises to 5-0 win over Czechs

by Mike G. Morreale

EDMONTON -- Czech Republic coach Miroslav Prerost was only half right when he addressed the media following his team's 5-0 loss to the Canadian National Junior Team on Wednesday in Group B preliminary round play of the 2012 World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.
"This game was all about Team Canada against our goalie [Petr Mrazek]," Prerost said.
While that was true, Team Canada goalie Scott Wedgewood was also pretty darn good.
Wedgewood made 26 saves in his WJC debut -- including 10 in each of the first and second periods -- to help lead the Canadians to their second victory in as many games in the tournament.
"Every time we needed a lift, he was there to make a big save," Canadian forward Ryan Strome said. "He outplayed their guy, and that's all we needed."

2012 World Junior Championship

Canada cruises to 5-0 win over Czechs

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer
The Canadian National Junior Team could do no wrong in recording its second straight victory at the 2012 World Junior Championship on Wednesday, 5-0, against the Czech Republic. READ MORE ›


The Canadians received goals from four different players, denied eight power-play opportunities by the Czech Republic and even had Wedgewood, a prospect of the New Jersey Devils, notch an assist -- in Martin Brodeur-esque fashion.
"This is probably some of the best hockey I've been playing my whole career so far," Wedgewood said. "I like playing under pressure. It makes you that much better and to stay calm in front of a crowd like that was hard at times, but it was something special."
It was also unforgettable when 14,000-plus fans began chanting his name, "Wedgewood … Wedgewood … Wedgewood" when the game was well in hand.
"It was pretty surreal," Wedgewood said. "I looked at my parents and my brothers and they were sitting at the end and it was something. They'll probably remember this just as much as I will.
"I felt confident on that stage, it was easy to get excited for a game like that. The Czech was a strong team, but I saw most shots and the couple of rebounds. The guys kept them out of the scoring areas."
Canadian coach Don Hay wasn't about to reveal his starting goalie for Thursday's matchup against Denmark.
"I thought Scott played really well, and I can see why the fans would be excited for him," Hay said. "He did well and I feel both our goalies [including Mark Visentin] have played well. You'll have to come to the game [Thursday] night and find out the starter then because I'm not telling anyone."
Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele scored a pair of goals in the third period, off assists from 2012 Draft eligible forward and Barrie Colts teammate Tanner Pearson to close out the scoring for the Canadians.
"I was putting pressure on myself to get going, get a few goals here," Scheifele said.
Strome had given Canada a 2-0 lead with 3:44 remaining in the second period when he took a pass from Freddie Hamilton low in the left circle before sweeping home his second of the tournament with his team working the power play.
It was during that goal sequence when Wedgewood scored an assist when he launched a pass to Hamilton from his end to the Czech blue line. Hamilton's attempt was ultimately denied at the right post but he alertly gathered the puck to set up the Strome goal.
"I thought their goalie was their best player … he really competed hard," Hay said. "I thought it was important for us to stick with it though and outwork them. I thought we were able to do that with the two quick goals in the second, and that gave us breathing room."
Brett Connolly connected for his second of the tournament with just 1:49 on the clock when he skated to the net and took a shot that initially rang off the left post. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect somehow managed to get his stick on the floating puck just before he crossed the end line and tuck in the rebound.
Mark Stone gave the Canadians a 1-0 lead with his fourth goal of the tournament in the opening period. The goal was typical Stone as he gained position in the slot and jammed home a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau at 5:37. Stone has four of Canada's nine goals in the tournament.
Stone missed an opportunity to put his team ahead by two when he was denied by Mrazek on a penalty shot with just 37.2 seconds left in the first. Stone got his chance after Czech defenseman Jiri Riha closed hand on puck in the crease following an initial save by Mrazek.
Stone attempted to go to his forehand from in tight but Mrazek closed the pads and stopped the attempt. He immediately pumped his arms in celebration after keeping his team within striking distance -- prompting plenty of boos from the Canadian faithful. Mrazek, drafted by the Detroit Red Wings, finished the game with 33 saves and was named Czech Republic's player of the game.
"You don't see that too often," Strome said when asked about Mrazek's celebration after stopping Stone. "It was a little frustrating, but we just wanted to pepper him with shots and knew they would start to go in eventually. But he's a good goalie for sure."
Wedgewood received plenty of defensive support, particularly when the Czechs were on the power-play as defensemen Scott Harrington, Brandon Gormley, Ryan Murray and Dougie Hamilton did a superb job.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale

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