While the Western Hockey League continues to wait for a potential start to its season, a few of its best young players are isolated in Edmonton, Alberta, for the World Junior tournament.
That includes Spokane Chiefs players Lukas Parik and David Jiricek, who are two of 10 WHL players representing the Czech Republic at the event, which features 10 national teams from around the world.
The Czechs are off to a 1-2-0 start, including a 7-0 loss to the United States on Tuesday and a 7-1 loss to Sweden on Saturday.
But Parik stood out particularly in the Czech victory, a 2-0 decision over Russia, when he stopped 30 shots.
“It was a great feeling, of course,” Parik told reporters after the win. “We played great as a team. The guys helped me a lot, but we have to refocus for our other games.”
While he didn’t play against Sweden, Parik was in net for the 7-0 loss to the United States, when the Czech Republic took seven minor penalties and gave up three power-play goals. He faced 30 shots and made 23 saves.
The Czechs will face Austria on Thursday to wrap up group play. The top four teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals; a win against Austria would advance the Czechs.
Jiricek has played in all three games in the tournament. The Chiefs selected the 17-year-old defenseman 54th overall in the CHL import draft last June. He has yet to play a game for Spokane.
Last season with the Chiefs, Parik went 22-7-2 in net, with a 2.73 goals-against average and a 91.7 save percentage.
Chiefs’ roster comes into focus: Earlier this month, the Chiefs released 20-year-olds Michael King and James Porter Jr., transactions that left them with the maximum of three overage players: forward Eli Zummack and defensemen Bobby Russell and Matt Leduc.
By releasing King and Porter, the two have a better opportunity to be signed by other teams in Canada by Jan. 10, a common deadline for Hockey Canada, Chiefs general manager Scott Carter said.
The Chiefs will lose three defensemen from their team last year in Filip Kral, Noah King and Ty Smith, so keeping Russell and Leduc was a priority, Carter said.
As for Porter’s release, Carter said he was confident that fellow goalie Campbell Arnold was recovering well from a knee injury suffered last December, and that Parik, entering his 19-year-old season, would be able to cross back into the United States at some point to rejoin the Chiefs.
“We’re in a situation where we felt now Campbell’s health is returned and he’s ready to go, and everything seems to be set from a goaltending standpoint,” Carter said.
The Chiefs also have Mason Beaupit, a 17-year-old who started three games in net last season.
The WHL indefinitely postponed its season earlier this month. Its board of governors will meet in mid-January to assess whether and when the league could begin its season.
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