Stancl scores dramatic winner for Czechia
by Andrew Podnieks|02 JAN 2024
Jakub Stancl celebrates his winning goal with 11.7 seconds remaining.
photo: Matt Zambonin/IIHF
Jakub Stancl's second goal of the game with just 11.7 seconds remaining gave Czechia a stunning 3-2 win over Canada. Czechia lost to Canada in last year's gold-medal game, and for the first time since 2019 Canada won't be there.

Stancl's quick shot went off the stick of defender Oliver Bonk, off the short-side post and in, a crazy bounce that advances the Czechs and sends Canada home.

Canada fought back from a 2-0 deficit with the only two goals of the second and was in command for much of the third, but with overtime in sight a crazy bounce ended a game that featured only one minor penalty (to Czechia). The old adage any shot is a good shot could not be truer than today. 

"It's unbelievable, an amazing feeling," Stancl said. "I got the puck from Ondrej [Becher] and just tried to take it to the net. It was a lucky bounce, but these things happen sometimes."

"We had a slow start in the first, but I thought we had a good second and unfortunately lost on an unlucky bounce," said Canadian Easton Cowan. "We gave it all we had in the second and third. Not much to say. I thought we dominated the game, but it didn't go our way today."

It was a battle between two goalies who have played every minute for their team so far--Mathis Rousseau for Canada, Michael Hrabal for Czechia. Canada had a significant edge in shots, 30-22, but Hrabal was just a bit sharper.

Canada started the game with promise, hemming the Czechs in their own end and moving the puck around effectively. But they played on the outside and had few good shots from danger areas. Macklin Celebrini wowed the crowd with a spin-o-rama move, but nothing came of that either.

The Czechs, meanwhile, slowly worked their way into the game and got more and more of the puck. Becher made a nice move of his own and rattled a shot off the crossbar, and Czechia took some confidence from this shift as they stared to control play. It was a contrast in style—Canada opted to pass first, shoot later; Czechia played it simple—chip it out, chip it over, chip it in.

Czechia opened the scoring when Stancl got a bit of room on a rush down the left side. His quick shot beat Rousseau short side at 7:51 and the Czechia bench erupted in celebration. It was the third straight game Canada had surrendered the opening goal.

Midway through the period, Canadian defender Noah Warren slashed Dominik Rymon as Rymon went around him, resulting in a penalty shot. Rymon took the freebie and shot into Rousseau’s crest as the goalie tried to pokecheck.

The Czechs doubled their lead late when a long and low point shot form Tomas Cibulka skipped its way between Rousseau’s pads. But in the second period, Canada dominated, shooting more, going hard to the net, and regaining the puck in their end quickly.

Rousseau added to his video collection of highlight-reel saves with another early on, robbing  Eduard Sale from in close, and soon after the Canadians got on the board. Cowan made a sensational tip-pass in centre ice to a streaking Matthew Wood, and Wood went in and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Hrabal at 3:43 to make it a 2-1 game.

Canada kept pressing and dominating, and it seemed only a matter of time before they scored again. It took a long while, though, but they tied the game at 16:40 on another shot to the same spot—top shelf, blocker side— this coming off the stick of Jake Furlong after an extended period in the Czechia end.

Canada had a great chance to take its first lead when it had the game's first power play, early in the third, but the Czech penalty killers were spot on in defence. Canada nonetheless dominated play, moving the puck and firing from everywhere in the Czechia end, but still unable to break the tie.

But just like the first period, Czechia weathered the storm and slowly worked their way more fluidly into the Canada end. By the time Stancl scored, they were having the better of play.

And now Canada goes home this early for the first time in five years, and the Czechs ensure they will be playing for a medal for the second consecutive year.