Czech Republic Under-17 team at Four nations tournament

By Robert Neuhauser
After the World Hockey Challenge tourney the Czech Under-17 team had another tournament
scheduled in mid-February. It took place in the town of Valkeakoski in Finland and the teams
really showed a highly skilled play, leaving no doubts that some of the future NHL players
participated here. Concerning the Czech team those players could be Marian Havel, who played
in three different leagues this season (elite midget, elite junior and Div I), sized winger
Robin Kovar or defenseman Ondrej Nemec, both from HC Slovnaft Vsetin junior team. Martin
Vagner, a defenseman from Pardubice, gained some attention with his smart and also hard play
and we can only guess who from this team will be playing for the Under-18 team next season
and who will be a CHL player.

The Czechs took on the home Finns in the opening game. The Finns were led by prospects
Jarkko Immonen and Valteri Filppula and this game was played like a playoff game. Lots of
defense, almost no mistakes and some checking. Tight defenses and both goaltenders shone
in this event. But it was the Czech goalie who was beaten after Viljanen scored the lonely
goal who turned out to be the game winner. It was at the end of the first period and the
Finns were awarded with a two-man advantage. Viljanen made immediately use of it and scored
the game winning goal. A depressive loss, 1-0.

The next game on the schedule was against Sweden. Litvinov forward Kamil Kreps scored the
opening goal very soon into the game and proved that he is a serious 2003 prospect.
Kamil, born in late 1984, isn’t very big, but fast on his skates, reads the game and reacts well,
can handle the puck quite well and is very dangerous on powerplay. He sometimes draws
comparisons to Steve Sullivan. Also small-sized Roman Vondracek, HC Sparta Praha player and
one of the best players of the elite midget league this season, scored another goal after he
went on alone on the right side to set the score to 2-0. After six minutes of the final
period the Swedes were back in the game as Detter scored his goal which has beaten the goalie
Lukas Musil top-shelf. After that the Czechs played the game at a higher pace and outplayed
the Swedes with quick turnovers and smart passes. This turned into goals scored by Marek
Chvatal, who presented a nice slapshot which surprised the Swedish goalie. Jakub Klepis, the
best Czech scorer at the tournament scored the final goal to set the score at 4-1. This
restored the team’s confidence and the Czechs had to face the last opponent in the tournament,
team Russia.

This game should decide about who will finish at the second place. For two periods it was
almost sure that this team will be the Czechs. They led 3-0 after 40 minutes and seemed to be
in control of the game. In the first period Marian Havel and Jakub Klepis created a chance
for Robin Kovar, who rebounded Havel’s shot behind the back of the Russian goalie Scherbakov.

In the second period the Czech increased their lead when Jakub Koreis, a playmaking center
scored after a pass from Roman Vondracek, who once again displayed his speed and agility on
the right wing. Ondrej Nemec scored the third goal after he went from his position on the
blue line in front of the Russia’s net and scored after assists from Marian Havel and Nemec’s
teammate Josef Vavra. But the Russians still believed in victory. They not only believed, this
was a new team in the third period. A team who scored goals. Sergei Shemetov, Alexander Semin
and Maxim Sheviev nullified the lead of the Czech team with quick goals after turnovers.

Defenseman Martin Vagner gave the Czechs the lead once again with a goal after a shot from the
faceoff circle. The Russians trailed by just one goal and they pulled the goalie to create
a powerplay situation. Anton Babchuk’s shot was succesfull and both teams went into overtime.

But this didn’t lead to a goal and the penalty shots had to decide. The Russians were more
lucky in the shootout and Alexander Semin scored the game winning penalty shot. The Russians
achieved a victory in which they could only believe after the second period, 5-4.

Overall the Czechs played a good tournament, they showed that they can beat every Under-17 team
when it is their day, only that they sometimes lost concentration for a while, but the
Czechs showed as usual a smart play with great passes, skated equally well as the opposition
and showed a lot of promise. Among the individuals this tournament caught the players like
Marian Havel, Robin Kovar, Martin Vagner or Roman Vondracek in a good shape and those guys
were the leaders of the Czech team. They’re definitely names to remember!