Canada’s Dylan Holloway (10) checks Czech Republic’s David Jiricek (8) during second period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Edmonton on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canada’s Dylan Holloway (10) checks Czech Republic’s David Jiricek (8) during second period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship action in Edmonton on Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Canada blanks Czech Republic 3-0 to reach world junior hockey semifinals

Goalie Devon Levi has 29 saves in shutout win

Canada advanced to the semifinals of the world junior men’s hockey championship with a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday in Edmonton.

Goaltender Devon Levi posted a 29-save shutout and Dylan Cozens had a goal and an assist for the host country. Connor McMichael scored into an empty net and defenceman Bowen Byram also scored for Canada at Rogers Place.

Canada will face Russia in one semifinal on Monday, while the U.S. meets Finland.

Russia reached the semifinals with a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Germany, while Finland downed Sweden 3-2 to advance. Canada was the only team to go undefeated in the preliminary round at 4-0 to top Pool A. The Czech Republic (2-2) ranked fourth in Pool B.

Nick Malik, who spend part of last season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, stopped 22 shots in the loss.

Canada led 2-0 after the opening period on goals from co-captains Cozens and Byram.

The host country didn’t dominate puck possession as it did in a 4-1 win over Finland to cap the round-robin, however. The Czechs battled hard for the puck to make Canada chase them, and often clogged the neutral zone to force the Canadians to jump and chase. But Canada’s grinding forecheck in the third period shrunk the Czech Republic’s chances of a comeback.

Czech coach Karel Mlejnek pulled Malik for an extra attacker with five and a half minutes to play in regulation, but McMichael scored an empty-netter at 17:11.

The Czech couldn’t produce a power-play goal with less than two minutes to play when Quinton Byfield was penalized for hooking. Canada outshot the Czechs 11-6 in a scoreless, penalty-free second period. With a hard-working backcheck, Canadian forward Peyton Krebs prevented an odd-man Czech chance off a turnover late in the period.

“It’s a plus for me the way the Czechs play us, the way we played and the way we had to dig in and figure it out,” Canadian head coach Andre Tourigny said. “I think that’s a good thing.”

Levi played his busiest period of the tournament stopping all 12 shots he faced in the first.

“I’m just taking every moment and savouring it because I know this is my last world juniors,” Levi said. “I’m going to be able to look back on this for the rest of my life. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can and I think that really takes the pressure off.”

With eight attempts on Malik in the opening frame, Canada was outshot in a period for the first time in the tournament. But seconds after Adam Raska’s interference penalty expired, Byram scored his first of the tournament squeezing a shot under Malik’s right armpit at 11:39. Cozens scored Canada’s first goal for the second time in as many games.

Connor McMichael flipped the puck up ice to Cozens on a breakaway. The Buffalo Sabres prospect shovelled the puck between Malik’s pads at 8:22.

READ MORE: Canada tops pool at world junior hockey championship with dominant 4-1 win over Finland

Byram and Cozens are alternating the captaincy in the absence of injured Kirby Dach. Canada was minus forward Alex Newhook, who injured his shoulder in the Finland game. Connor Zary centred a line with wingers Krebs and Cole Perfetti in Newhook’s absence, and defenceman Jordan Spence also drew into the lineup. Cozens has a team-leading seven goals and six assists in five games.

With 22 combined points from both the 2020 and 2021 world junior tournaments, Cozens ranks sixth all-time for Canada ahead of John Tavares (20) and behind Jason Allison (24).

THE CANADIAN PRESS

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