The big club might be struggling, but a lot of the Jacket Prospects in the system are looking pretty good. This year’s World Junior Championships saw three players whose rights are owned by the Blue Jackets play very well – helping their team to a silver medal.
While the team only sent three players to Halifax, all skating for Czechia; it’s hard to be upset about their performances. Czechia is always competitive at these tournaments, though they usually don’t stand a chance against regular powerhouses like Canada, Sweden, the United States or Russia.
But this year was different. The underdog Czechs – led by two talented Jacket prospects on the back end, were in the tournament right from day 1; when they beat a stacked Canadian team to open the tournament.
Their thrilling OT win over Sweden on Wednesday night, meant that they would be guaranteed a medal in this tournament for the first time since taking home bronze in 2005. They would get to play in a gold medal game for the first time since 2001 – when they won their second gold in a row. The Canadians won on the other side of the bracket, and the final was set.
Things didn’t start out too well for Team Czechia in the gold medal game, as Canada struck early and then carried a 2-0 lead into the third period. But the Czechs, as they did all tournament, just kept clawing away. They scored twice in 54 seconds mid-way through the third period, and took the Canadians to overtime.
While Dylan Guenther provided the dagger, scoring the OT winner on a 2-on-1 feed to win gold, Czechia played extremely well in a game against a team loaded with top NHL prospects. Silver medals in this tournament are nothing to be upset about, it’s a very proud moment for a country that may be seeing their hockey renaissance.