WJC Final Game Recap

By Robert Neuhauser
The most attractive part of the WJC was scheduled on Friday, January, 5th, 2001 to the
Luzhniki Arena in Moscow. The final battle of the WJC, one of the two teams will always
remain in the history of hockey as the winner, remembered by the fans, the other won’t be
well known after some time. Of course each of the teams wanted to be the “unforgetable” and
celebrate the victory, what can be better? On one side the Czechs, a team led by
strong personalities and future NHLers, on top with the super first line consisting of
defensemen Rostislav Klesla and Libor Ustrnul and forwards Pavel Brendl – Vaclav Nedorost –
Zdenek Blatny. Those five guys combined for nearly 60 per cent of the goals scored by the
Czech team.

The Finnish side presented top WJC sniper Jani Rita, one of top 1982 born
defensemen in the world, Tero Maatta, and all three top 2001 Finnish prospects, Tuomo Ruutu,
Saku Koivu’s younger brother Mikko Koivu, and left winger Tuomas Pihlman. Pihlman and Ruutu
played on the first line along with the sniper Rita, Mikko Koivu was the center of the line
with wingers Ville Hamalainen and Tony Salmelainen. And one had the teams the same. Great
goaltenders. Well-known New Jersey Devils prospect Ari Ahonen in the net for Finland and
undrafted HC Sparta Praha goalie Tomas Duba playing for the Czech Republic. So this were the
top Under-20 teams of the 2000-2001 season, now competing for gold.

Both of the teams have built their strategy on defense. The Finnish players forechecked hard,
but after they felt, that they can’t win the puck, they all hurried back to the defensive zone
to stop the Czech forwards. The Czech were waiting for breakaway situations, knowing that they
have the players who can score from those situations. Once they were all in their own zone,
bud suddenly one or two rallied to the Finnish net, creating scoring opportunities.
The first scoring chance of the Czech came with nearly 4 minutes played in the game.
Radim Vrbata, who decreased his offensive output at the WJC due to increased defensive play,
aggresively followed the puck, which went along the board, didn’t let himself get knocked
off the puck by a defenseman and went from the corner straight in front of the net. He was
standing there alone in front of Ahonen, but unfortunately was unable to lift the puck over
the Finnish goalie, who made the save. Just seconds after this play captain Michal Sivek
won the battle for the puck in the corner and passed it to Martin Erat, who one-timed the
shot while standing near the right bar of the net, but he missed the net.

Then there was Pavel Brendl, who wanted to go for a breakaway. He had just one defenseman
a step in front of him, who was about to knock him off the puck, so Pavel helped himself with
a quick tripp and had the puck on his stick again as the whistle blew and he went to the penalty
box with a minor for tripping. The first powerplay of the game, the Finnish one, wasn’t that
much interesting like the second. Michal Sivek tried to create a scoring chance in the Finnish
zone when Harri Tikkanen hooked him and sent him to the ice. Now he could watch the first Czech
line taking on the Finnish penalty killing unit. After about 40 second of the powerplay gone, Libor
Ustrnul stopped the puck near the board, passed it to Pavel Brendl, who skated with it along
the blue line when he suddenly passed the puck to Rostislav Klesla, who fired a slap shot,
which ended in the net of Ahonen! A powerplay goal and a very important one.

It was obvious
that the team who will score first will have a big advantage for the rest of the game.

Ari
Ahonen couldn’t see something when there were lots of players standing in front of him and
Vaclav Nedorost might have slightly deflected the shot, but Rostislav Klesla’s name was
annouced as the name of goal scorer. Rosta scored his third goal at the WJC, all of them on
the powerplay. The game was defensive again after this and the Finns had a chance to tie the
game when Libor Ustrnul went to the penalty box with one minute left to play in the period,
but the Czech showed why they have the best penalty killing percentage. They allowed almost
nothing to the Finns.
Ustrnul returned from the penalty box at the beginning of the second period, when there was
another interesting situation. With just 2:54 played in the period the Czechs increased their
lead to 2:0. Libor Ustrnul caught the clearing attempt of Markko Paukkunen into his glove,
threw the puck on his stick and fired a booming shot from the blueline, which went about
half a meter over the ice. Finnish defenseman Tuuka Mantyla tried to do Ari Ahonen’s job and
caught the puck into his glove. But the shot was hard and the puck dropped to the ice. And there
was forechecking Vaclav Nedorost, who had it immediately on his stick and sent it to the net for
a 2:0 lead. After that he skated over the rink to celebrate the victory while lying on his
stomach in front of Tomas Duba.

After this two-goal cushion the Czechs wanted to score another goal and that could be very painful.
Their too much offensive plans created a 3 on 1 rush, Jani Rita skated with the puck on the right wing,
passed it to Tuomas Pihlman, but his shot from the left wing was turned aside by Duba.

The Finns had a powerplay then, with Michal Sivek in the penalty box, but the aggresive play
of the Czech team caused that their powerplay ended without a goal. Mikko Koivu showed even
more confidence than needed when he circled with the puck right in front of Ahonen, Pavel Brendl
forechecked, but Koivu managed this situation safely.
The Czechs defended their two-goal lead as hard as they could, they didn’t want to let the Finns
score a goal before the break, Jan Vytisk displayed this will when he almost injured himself
by lying into a shot of a Finnish player, when Martin Erat was in the penalty box for high
sticking.

But the Finns scored. And what a beauty it was! Jani Rita caught the puck behind his own net,
showed his great acceleration when he raced through the neutral zone, slipped around two Czech
players and fired a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle which surprised Tomas Duba in
nearly the last minute of the period. The Finns became enthusiastic and believed that they
can turn the game into a victory.

But the Czech had luck – and Tomas Duba. Early in the third period the puck deflected to
Tony Salmelainen, who stood unopposed near the right bar of the net. In this moment he had the
puck on his stick and a free net. In the next moment there was Tomas Duba like a lightning and
robbed the puck. Unbelievable!
The whole third period was a hard fought battle. The Finns opened up, but the Czech defense
remained perfect.

And then came a moment Mikko Koivu will remember for a long time. Tomas Duba went behind the net,
but Ville Hamalainen got the puck and passed it to Koivu on the left faceoff circle. Tomas Duba
hurried back to the net, but he couldn’t do anything against Koivu. Koivu fired a wrist shot on an
empty net – and he missed! That was a big piece of luck for the Czechs!

With two minutes to go the Finns used their time-out to plan the powerplay.
And in the last minute Ari Ahonen was on the bench of Finland.

Martin Erat could score the empty netter for the Czechs, he went behind the empty Finnish net,
caught the puck into his glove, dropped it on the ice, but his backhander was blocked by a
defenseman.

With 5 seconds left in the game Jaroslav Holik took his timeout to prepare the Czechs for the
final battle and he wanted to bring the Finns out of tempo. And he succeeded. Mikko Koivu and
Vaclav Nedorost took the draw, Nedorost won and sent the puck to the corner – and after that
the Czech players left the bench and formed a heap of bodies there where once was the net
of Tomas Duba. And then there were the minutes every player dreams of. Yelling and screaming with
teammates, celebrating the victory! After some minutes the players had to stay calm at the
blue line for a while. The top players on each position were annouced. This increased the joy
from the victory even more. Because the trophy for the top WJC goalie went to Tomas Duba,
Rostislav Klesla acquired a beautiful silver sword as the top WJC defenseman and finally, Pavel
Brendl takes home the cup for the WJC top forward! The three top players at the WJC from the
same country, that happens at the WJC for the first time! Besides, Pavel Brendl became the
best scorer of the WJC, with 10 points for 4 goals and 6 assists.

After that there were sweet moments for every player as everyone became his gold medal, that
looked good at team photos taken after that! At least the Finnish players could be a bit happy
with their silver medals, but the whole team was down while the Czechs celebrated. Tuomo
Ruutu sat on the ice and couldn’t stand up from sadness and so was the situation of other players…
That was another big victory of the Czech hockey. But this team deserved that, they
didn’t loose any single game.

The great personalities were excellent leaders. Tomas Duba, Michal Sivek and Vaclav Nedorost now have
2 championship titles at home and Nedorost can still play in 2002! From this team can follow
him Rostislav Klesla, Libor Ustrnul and Tomas Plekanec. Some of the players are going to make
their NHL teams in September and they can be proud of their showing at the WJC. Hats off and
good luck for the 2002 WJC, held in the Czech Republic!

2001 WJC Final Game

Czech Republic - Finland 2:1  (1:0, 1:1, 0:0)

Scoring summary
First period - 14. Rostislav Klesla (Libor Ustrnul, Pavel Brendl) PP 1:0

Second period - 23. Vaclav Nedorost (Libor Ustrnul) 2:0
                39. Jani Rita (unassisted) 2:1

Third period - no scoring

Powerplays - Czech Republic 1/3
             Finland 0/5

Attendance: 6400

Individual player scoring
                        Goals  Assists  Points
Rostislav Klesla          1       0        1
Libor Ustrnul             0       2        2
David Pojkar              0       0        0
Jan Vytisk                0       0        0
David Nosek               0       0        0
Jakub Cutta               0       0        0
Pavel Brendl              0       1        1
Vaclav Nedorost           1       0        1
Zdenek Blatny             0       0        0
Radim Vrbata              0       0        0
Michal Sivek              0       0        0
Martin Erat               0       0        0
Lukas Havel               0       0        0
Tomas Plekanec            0       0        0
Patrik Moskal             0       0        0
Tomas Duba                0       0        0

Czech Republic team statistics
                        Goals  Assists  Points
Pavel Brendl              4       6       10
Vaclav Nedorost           4       5        9
Zdenek Blatny             5       2        7
Rostislav Klesla          3       4        7
Martin Erat               2       1        3
Michal Sivek              2       1        3
Radim Vrbata              1       2        3
Libor Ustrnul             0       3        3
Jan Choteborsky           1       1        2
Lukas Havel               1       1        2
Marek Tomica              1       1        2
Tomas Plekanec            1       1        2
Ivan Rachunek             1       0        1
Ladislav Vlcek            1       0        1
Jakub Cutta               0       1        1
Jakub Grof                0       1        1
Patrik Moskal             0       1        1
David Nosek               0       0        0
David Pojkar              0       0        0
Jan Vytisk                0       0        0

Goaltenders
                Games Min  GA    SVS     GAA
Tomas Duba         7  420   9   .9470   1.14
Lukas Cucela       0    0   0       0   0.00