Canada defeats host country Czech Republic 2-0 to move on to gold medal game
Canada's Taylor Hall (R) celebrates with his teammate Sidney Crosby after scoring a goal against the Czech Republic during their Ice Hockey World Championship semifinal game at the O2 arena in Prague, Czech Republic May 16, 2015. REUTERS/David W Cerny
PRAGUE, Czech Republic – Taylor Hall played possessed. Jordan Eberle was a force.
“Personally, that’s probably the biggest game I’ve played in like five years,” said Hall.
Eberle would say six.
Think about that.
The last games for Taylor Hall as big as the get-to-the-gold-medal-game of the IIHF World Championships which Canada won 2-0 over the host Czech Republic here Saturday were the back-to-back Memorial Cup finals he won to win back-to-back Memorial Cup MVP honours.
Eberle, the year before Hall was selected in the draft, was the hero of Canada winning a gold medal at the World Junior.
The Edmonton Oilers finished 30th the year they picked Hall No. 1 overall. In his time with the team they’ve finished 30th, 29th, 24th, 28th and 28th.
There’s not a lot of big games in there.
“This is a whole new level,” said Hall.
“This was huge. It was obviously an extremely important game for our team. It gets us a chance to win a gold medal,” he said of the first trip to the final since 2008 and 2009 when Canada lost to Russia and 2007 when they last won gold against Finland.
“I thought today was probably our best game as a line. “It’s a fun stage and a fun crowd. It’s been a while since Canada has been here and that’s not lost on us in any way.
“The gold medal game is going to be a game with a lot of emotion. And there are a lot of guys who are searching for our first world championship gold medal so it’s going to be fun.”
The question has been with steady string of Oilers bottom of the standings seasons, was if maybe Hall and Eberle had forgotten how to win.
“Taylor and his linemates had just an exceptional game,” said coach Todd McLellan, who almost certainly will be introduced as the next head coach of the Edmonton Oilers in the next 10 days.
“Obviously they scored that goal and the most important thing about that goal was that it changed the flow of the game and the momentum of the game in our favor,” he said of Eberle feeding Hall across the crease after his long-time Oiler roommate had zinged one off a crossbar earlier.
The goal turned out to be the winner.
If McLellan had any question what kind of playoff players the two are going to be when the day finally comes and get gets to coach them in the Stanley Cup playoffs, he just got an eyeful as the two lead the way for Team Canada to Sunday’s gold medal game.
“They played very well. And they played very well defensively, which was nice to see.
“I have a saying. You can’t win the Derby on a donkey. You need race horses to win the Derby. We have some race horses on our team. We have some very high end caliber of players. But you have to get them on the right lines and understand that the whole is way more important than the part,” said McLellan.
“Hallsy played really well. Our line played really well,” said Eberle including the third guy, a lower-profile fella by the name of Sid Crosby.
Eberle said most nights, they would have ended up with more than the one goal.
“We were able to capitalize and break through there and get the first one. Sid made a great play to me to send me in on the breakaway and I knew where Taylor was going to be.
“We had a lot of chances on the power play to get maybe two or three but Ondrej Pavelec made some great saves,” he said of the Winnipeg Jets goaltender who faced 41 shots.
Jason Spezza scored the other Canadian goal with a sneaky shot between the legs of a defenceman and Pavelec’s pads.
The key, as the game went along, was for the Canadians to force the Czechs to use the entire ice surface and an entire team of talented young players used to putting more emphasis on scoring than forechecking and playing on-the-man positional hockey, including the likes of Hall and Eberle, played it great.
“If you don’t slow them down in their zone, if you don’t make them play on the boards, they free-wheel and they can come through you quite quickly.
“They played the way we thought they would play. We thought we’d have to play a five-minute game and a 55-minute game and they certainly won the five-minute game. They pushed us extremely hard the first five to seven minutes.”
It was Crosby to Eberle to Hall for the winning goal in the eighth minute.
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