The win vaults Team Canada into a 7:30 pm semi-final contest with tournament favorite Sweden
Stephens (a second round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, 33 overall, in the 2015 NHL draft) made his return tonight after sitting out Canada's 3-1 New Years Eve loss to Team USA
due to an ankle injury which he had sustained in a game against Latvia
Leading the Team Canada scoring tonight with 3-points (1-goal, 2-assists) it's a safe bet that the Peterborough, ON native was re-energized by a couple days of rest, however, he still pointed out that there was an entire team effort responsible for tonight's win.
“Well, being off for a couple days helped, I guess,” Stephens laughingly said in a Toronto Sun article
. “It's tough when you come out of an injury and go back into the system and try to get your legs under you. It was a team effort tonight. I wouldn't say it was one individual guy.”
Hronek (a second round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, 53 overall, in the 2016 NHL draft) helped set up Czech teammate David Kase with an assist at 16:49 of the first period giving his team a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Stephens, along with his new line-mates, turned the game back into the Canadian's favor early in the second period when he found Blake Speers (a New Jersey Devils prospect who plays for the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL) with a laser pass to the front of the net at 3:45 of the second period to tie the game at 1 goal apiece.
Stephens followed with his first goal of the tournament from fellow Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Anthony Cirelli (who plays for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL) at the 7:27 mark of the second period to take a 2-1 lead.
Czech forward Tomas Soustal (Kelowna Rockets of the WHL) would answer with an unassisted goal to tie the game at 2-2 just over a minute later at the 8:53 mark of the second period. However, Stephens would then find 2015 Ottawa Senators' first round pick, defenseman Thomas Chabot (who currently plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL) at 13:32 of the second period to take a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
Carolina Hurricanes' 2016 first round winger Julien Gauthier (who plays for Val-d'Or Foreurs in the QMJHL) would add two goals in the third period for Team Canada at 3:18 and 6:37 respectively, while Czech Republic winger Simon Stransky would score his teams final goal at 5:54 of the third period.
Czech Republic goal tender Jakub Skarek stopped 36 of the 41 Team Canada shots he would face tonight, while yet another Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, goalie Connor Ingram (who currently plays for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL) turned away 16 of the 19 shots he faced in net for Team Canada.
Stephens and his Team Canada teammates will now prepare to take on Sweden at 7:30 pm on Wed. directly after Team USA plays Russia in the other semi-final (which is set for a 5:30 pm face off) with both games being played at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Hronek and the Czech Republic team are now finished competing in the 2017 IIHF U20 WJC tournament, however, he will take away some nice hardware from the event.
Hronek was named one of the 3 best players of the tournament for the Czech Republic team and he was presented with a brand new watch by tournament sponsor, Tissot
, in a post-game ceremony on the ice.