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Canadian under-18 hockey team earns 7-5 exhibition win over Czech Republic

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BRECLAV, Czech Republic - Jansen Harkins, Jeremy Roy and Travis Konecny scored third-period goals to lead Canada's under-18 hockey team to a 7-5 exhibition victory over the Czech Republic on Saturday.

The contest was Canada's lone tuneup heading into the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament, which begins Monday. The Canadians face Switzerland in their opening game in Piestany, Slovakia.

Canada twice overcame a two-goal deficit to enter the third period tied 4-4. Harkins and Roy, on the power play, scored to put the Canadians ahead 6-4 before the Czechs countered with the man advantage to make it a one-goal game.

But after Canada killed off two penalties — which gave the Czechs a two-man power play for over a minute — Konecny recorded the insurance goal at 14:51 of the period.

Lawson Crouse had two goals for Canada while Mitchell Marner and Connor Hobbs had the others.

Jakub Zboril scored twice for the Czechs. Martin Weinhold, Filip Suchy and Lukas Jasko added the other goals.

Both teams switched goaltenders roughly at the midway point of the contest, with Zach Sawchenko taking over from starter Callum Booth in the Canadian net. The first shot Sawchenko faced was a penalty shot but Czech Roman Dymacek missed the net.

The contest was the first for the Canadian team and head coach Jody Hull was impressed with the squad's resiliency in overcoming the two-goal deficits.

"That's what impressed me," said Hull, the head coach of the OHL's Peterborough Petes. "There was no quit in our guys, they were vocal on the bench and once we started playing that down-low game we started to have some success and gained some momentum.

"It was a bit of a learning curve. There are some things we know we have to work on and get better at but there were a lot of positives."

A consistent challenge for Canada on the international stage is putting a team together that can come together quickly. And that's important, considering Saturday's game was the first of six over an eight-day span for the Canadians.

Then again, 22 members of the squad have previous experience in Hockey Canada's Program of Excellence.

"The biggest thing is trying to get all your systems across and what you want to do," Hull said. "When it's all said and done there's only going to be like six practices where you're able to get your message across.

"It's a lot of video and stuff but players in today's game are all visual learners. They pick it up pretty quick when we're watching video but at the same time they also have a very high hockey IQ so they're able to adjust relatively quickly."

Konecny said one exhibition game is more than enough for the Canadian squad heading into the tournament.

"We have to do what we have to do and work with the time we have," he said. "This gives us and our coaches stuff to work on and shows us what we need to improve on throughout the tournament.

"Our objective as a team is to come together as fast as we can and prepare as fast as we can and gel and figure each other out and know the chemistry."

Canada has won the annual summer tournament six consecutive years and 18 times overall since '91. It will play in Group B with Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.

The Czechs, Finland, Russia and U.S. will make up Group A and play out of Breclav.

The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals Aug. 15. The two winners face off in the gold medal game Aug. 16.

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