Czechs win thrilling opener
by Andrew Podnieks|26 DEC 2019
The Czech Republic’s Jan Mysak celebrates after scoring a first period goal on Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
The Czech Republic opened the 2020 World Junior Championship on home ice with a thrilling 4-3 win over Russia. The Czechs surrendered leads of 2-0 and 3-2, but once ahead 4-3 it got the job done in a tense third for the win.

The two countries have played on Boxing Day five times in the last quarter century, the Russians winning three and in each case going on to earn a medal. 

"We went into the game thinking we could win," said Czech forward Matej Blumel. "The fans were unbelievable. They pushed us to win. We can't thank them enough. Even when we were ahead 2-0 early, we knew the game wasn't over and we had to keep playing hard. We have a lot of character. The young guys play hard and strong every shift, and that inspires the older guys to do the same."
Buoyed by their fans, the Czechs came out with an energy the Russians couldn’t match, scoring twice before the game was eight minutes old. Simon Kubicek opened the scoring at 2:46 on the power play when his one-timer from the point went all the way.
They doubled their lead just five minutes later thanks to a quick defensive play by Jan Sir. He intercepted a pass in his own end and moved the puck up to Jan Mysak in the same motion. Mysak went down the ice on an odd-man rush but kept it the whole way before wiring a shot over the shoulder of Yaroslav Askarov at 7:41.
But the Russians remained calm and slowly played their way back into the game. They cut the lead in half two and a half minutes later seconds after a power play chance expired. Defenceman Yegor Zamula faked a shot and then threw a quick wrister on goal. It found its way through traffic, silencing the crowd and giving the visitors a bit of life.
Four minutes later, they tied the game with a man advantage. Vasili Podkolzin got to a loose puck and lifted it over Lukas Dostal to make the opening-period comeback complete.
The Czechs went ahead again early in the second on a patient play by Matej Blumel. He outwaited a defenceman, drew Askarov to one side, and snapped a shot under the goalie’s glove at 5:31. 
But as the fans chanted in celebration, Russia responded. Zamula got his second of the game, charging to the net and taking a pass from Dmitri Voronkov before burying his shot just 45 seconds after Blumel’s goal.
Russia then took a series of penalties late in the period that gave the Czechs consecutive 5-on-3 situations. They capitalized on the first when Jan Jenik fired a shot past Askarov just four seconds after the second penalty to give them a two-man advantage.

"I'm surprised our power play was so good today," admitted Blumel,"because it wasn't that great in our exhibition games."
NOTES: Jakub Lauko, a Boston draft choice loaned to the Czechs from Providence, the Bruins' AHL affiliate, injured his knee in the first minute of the game and didn’t return. 
Czech Republic vs. Russia - 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship