Czechs slow down high-flying Team North America

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After scoring at a healthy rate in two pre-tournament games against Team Europe, the speedy Team North American squad ran into a pair of hot goalies when facing the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

It started with a 25-save performance through 30 minutes for Michal Neuvirth and finished with 19 saves from Petr Mrazek, who came off the bench for the second half of the game. 

Despite a third-period comeback from the young guns, who dominated possession and the shot clock with 44 shots on goal, the Czech Republic scored a 3-2 win thanks to a late goal from Tomas Plekanec.

Parked at the side of the net, Plekanec re-directed a pass out front, beating goalie Connor Hellebuyck from a difficult angle. The goal came just 53 seconds after Auston Matthews tied the game with his first goal of the pre-tournament.

It’s also a goal Hellebuyck would certainly want back, but the Czechs will take it in their first game on North American soil since pre-tournament play began last week.

The Czechs will now enter the tournament with back-to-back wins.

Their games certainly haven’t been pretty at times. They lost by one goal to Russia to begin the exhibition portion of the schedule, then came back with a shootout victory against the same team two days later.

And now they’ve beaten the North American team, which could be a fan favorite in this competition with its abundance of speed and talent.

The Czechs will be in tough, however, when the tournament begins. They’ve got Canada for an opener on Sept. 17, and Team USA on Sept. 22.