Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Smith Shuts out Czech Republic, Canada Advances to Gold-Medal Game

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Smith Shuts out Czech Republic, Canada Advances to Gold-Medal Game

Article excerpt

Smith blanks Czechs to send Canada to final

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PRAGUE - Mike Smith recorded his second straight shutout Saturday to lead Canada to a 2-0 semifinal win over the Czech Republic at the world hockey championships.

But the Arizona Coyotes goaltender wouldn't take full credit for the victory.

Smith, who's been stellar all tournament, made 23 saves to hold down a fired-up Czech squad and propel Canada into Sunday's gold-medal game against Russia.

"I think we played a solid game and that's most important," Smith said. "We were in a tight hockey game all the way through and we handled it very well."

The home team showed great jump early in the game -- inspired by its loud, partisan crowd of supporters.

"Smitty was unbelievable," said Canadian defenceman Tyson Barrie. "The Czechs came out firing the first 10 minutes there. He kinda kept us in it.

"He's been doing that all tournament though. He's been outstanding and we're lucky to have him back there."

Smith has given up just 11 goals through the first nine games of the tournament and has recorded a .931 save percentage -- third best behind Connor Hellebuyck of the United States and Sebastian Dahm of Denmark.

In Saturday's later semifinal, Russia beat the United States 4-0 to advance to the gold-medal game. The U.S. will play the Czech Republic, also on Sunday, for bronze.

Taylor Hall opened the scoring for Canada at the 8:40 mark of the first period, converting a slick feed from his Edmonton Oilers teammate Jordan Eberle past helpless Czech netminder Ondrej Pavelec.

"I just kind of beat my guy and Sid (Sidney Crosby) made a great play to me for a breakaway," said Eberle. "I knew I had a guy on my hip and I knew Hallzy was behind me. I thought if I moved it to my forehand, Pavelec would follow me and I'd leave Hallzy with an empty-net. It worked out, so it's good."

Jason Spezza increased Canada's lead to 2-0 at 9:02 of the second period on a sharp-angle shot that snuck inside the far post.

Spezza leads the tournament with 14 points through nine games, while Hall and Eberle are now tied for second place with 12 points each.

"I thought today was probably our best game as a line," said Hall. …

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