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WJC Recap: Lightning prospects provide offense to defeat Czech Republic

Five Tampa Bay Lightning prospects suited up for Canada as they defeated the Czech Republic 5-3 in the Quarter Finals of the World Junior Championship Tournament.

Canada v Czech Republic - Quarterfinal -  2017 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Team Canada’s presumptive first line, featuring center Dylan Strome, has yet to develop chemistry in this tournament. With that in mind, head coach Dominique Ducharme made some changes to the line-up in advance of last night’s game.

As a result of those changes, Lightning fans were treated to two lines featuring two prospects apiece: Mathieu Joseph remained with Taylor Raddysh while Mitchell Stephens shifted to Anthony Cirelli’s wing. The fifth Lightning prospect in this game was goalie Connor Ingram.

Canada got off to a shaky start in the first period, unable to generate any sustained momentum and ended the first period down 1-0 after a puck bounced off a referee and onto a Czech Republic player’s stick.

The second period saw a reversal of fortunes as the Canadians began to settle into their new lines and create some great opportunities for themselves. New Jersey Devils prospect Blake Speers celebrated his 20th birthday in style by netting Canada’s first goal off of a beautiful pass by Stephens. Joseph picked up a secondary assist with a crafty takeaway to start the scoring play.

A few minutes later, Cirelli won a face-off and Stephens immediately scored another goal for the Canadians, giving them their first lead of the night at 2-1.

The Czech Republic responded about a minute later with a goal of their own, tying the game at 2-2. Canada regained the lead off of an absolutely stellar goal by Ottawa Senators prospect Thomas Chabot, assisted by Stephens and Cirelli.

Canada maintained the lead throughout the duration of the contest, winning by a final score of 5-3. Tomorrow they face their biggest challenge against an undefeated Team Sweden in the Semi-Final round.

Lightning Prospects Summary

  • F Mitchell Stephens: 1G, 2A. Stephens missed the previous two games with an ankle injury, but made an immediate impact with a 3-point night upon returning to the line-up. His assist on Speers’ goal was a thing of beauty as was Stephens’ own goal off of a Cirelli face-off win.
  • F Anthony Cirelli: 0G, 2A. Anthony Cirelli is a face-off machine. He is integral to the penalty kill and can be found on the ice any time Team Canada has a crucial face-off, especially in the defensive zone. His face-off win led to Stephens’ goal that gave Canada its first lead of the night. Perhaps what stands out most about Cirelli is his consistent effort and performance every night for Team Canada.
  • F Mathieu Joseph: 0G, 1A. Joseph was involved in setting up the first Canadian goal of the night. He was a forceful defensive presence, challenging the Czechs for the puck throughout the game. He was one of the Lightning prospects (along with Cirelli and Stephens) entrusted with helping Canada protect a 2-goal lead late in the game.
  • F Taylor Raddysh: 0G, 0A. Raddysh didn’t find the score sheet, but played a solid game. He didn’t make any major mistakes and provided some offensive pressure.
  • G Connor Ingram: 0.842 SV % (16 saves on 19 shots). The first goal Ingram allowed was a fluky bounce off of an official. The second goal slotted across the ice and through his five-hole and is probably one that he should have saved. On the third goal, he made a remarkable initial save before the puck rebounded to another Czech player who put it in the net. Ingram would have benefited from some defensive support in that situation. It remains to be seen if this performance was strong enough to secure him a spot as the starting goaltender in tomorrow’s match-up against Team Sweden.