Coming off a huge win over Switzerland on Thursday, Team Canada is looking to advance to the Gold Medal Final on Sunday as they take on the Czech Republic today. In the other Semi Final matchup Russia meets the upstart Finnish team led by potential first overall pick in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, Kaapo Kakko.
Canada advanced to the Semis with a heart-stopping 3-2 overtime win over the Swiss that saw them tie the game when Damon Severson scored with 0.4 seconds left in regulation. After that, it was Mark Stone time again. Stone, who had already scored Canada’s first goal and set up Severson’s tying marker, sealed the deal in OT.
The good news today is that Anthony Mantha will be back in the Canadian lineup. Mantha was suspended for one game for a hit to the head on Team USA’s Colin White. Mantha and Stone are tied for the team lead in scoring with 12 points.
They’ll have their hands full today against a very good Czech team, led by Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek, who is tied with Russia’s Nikita Kucherov for 2nd in scoring, and Michael Frolik, who is in 5th with 14 points.
The key to the matchup today is the tournament’s best power play versus one of the best penalty killing units. Canada’s power play is running at a jaw-dropping 50% clip right now, while the Czech PK is running at 84.38%, good for 3rd in the tournament. The Czechs also lead in the number of penalties taken, so that could come back to haunt them against a power play that no one has been able to stop with any great degree of success so far.
Matt Murray will get the start for Canada again today, while Patrik Bartosak will be in the crease for the Czechs. After a shaky start Murray’s played well for Canada, and Bartosak, who is playing in his first major tournament for his country, has put up stats similar to Murray’s playing in 5 of the 8 games for the Czechs.