Under-18 WJC: Czech Republic playoff games

By Robert Neuhauser
The Czech Republic team looked to be in serious trouble after the preliminary round. They lost
the last game against Germany and this surprise caused them this trouble. They wanted to face
the third placed team of the Group A, but with a third place they had to play against the
second best team of the Group A. And this team was the USA squad. As usual, the Americans play
an aggresive in-your-face style of game, with lots of shooting and hitting. The Czech team,
used to the style of passing and passing, could have problems with the American style. But
the guys were motivated enough to beat the US guys and advance to the fight for a medal, which
would mean a great success.

The US team, where most of the team will not opt-in for this year’s draft, boasts a lot of
future NHLers. The names of Eric Nystrom, Jason Ryznar, Brian McConnell or smallish Dwight Helminen will be
soon the names to remember. The most outstanding star is Ryan Whitney, a player who could be
a top 10 pick if he opts in either in 2001 or 2002.
And the USA team stormed on the Czechs. They were very good in front
of Miroslav Kopriva in the net for the Czech Republic, where they tried to deflect and rebound
the shots. This led to two quick goals after five minutes played, Gionta and Brian McConnell
scored those goals while standing in front of Kopriva. After that was Kopriva replaced by
Martin Laska, who started playing well. And in the 15th minute Frantisek Bakrlik was able
to bring the puck behind the back of Travis Weber after passes from Lukas Chmelir and Petr
Puncochar. But the Americans maintained their two-goal lead in the first period. In the last
minute Joe Pomaranski fired a slap shot which surprised Laska. Jason Ryznar assisted on this

The whole second period was a tough battle, the Americans tried to secure the lead and
the Czechs tried to cut the margin. And they succeeded. With one minute left to play sized
Tomas Micka rebounded a shot of Petr Puncochar in the American net. Dwight Helminen has frozen
the smile on the Czech faces with his goal in the first minute of the third period, giving the USA
team again a two-goal lead. But the Czechs were eager to win. Petr Puncochar, who played a
perfect game that afternoon, scored a powerplay goal after a slap shot, cutting the margin to
one goal. It was 4:5 and seven minutes left to play. With two minutes left to play Martin Laska
made a save, passed the puck to Lukas Chmelir, who fed Petr Kanko with a breakaway chance.

Kanko went alone on Weber, deked the goalie and tied the game. Kanko scored his fifth goal on the
tourney and secured an overtime. This was scoreless, no team wanted to make a mistake. So the
penalty shots had to decide. Martin Laska against Travis Weber. Zbynek Novak scored against
Weber and so did Jan Rehor and captain Jiri Novotny. It was 3:2 after the fifth series and
Brian Miller had to score if he wanted to keep the USA team in the tournament. But a save by
Martin Laska brought the Czech team into the semifinals against Russia!

Russia, a nightmare of the Czech team in the preliminary round, where they won 8:3. The Czech
team wanted to prevent such a big loss with solid defensive play, which would keep the Russians
off their usual aggresive game with lots of skating. Martin Laska, the hero of the quarterfinal
contest, was again in the net. And he soon had to bring the puck out of the net. The Russian
team, a clear Under-18 WJC favorite, ruled on the ice. Alexander Perezhogin opened the scoresheet
and Fedor Tyutin scored on 7:0 in the first minute of the third period. No trouble here for the
Russians. A clear win, they could show some of their individual skills to the NHL scouts. Ilya
Kovalchuk, a projected future NHL star, scored twice and played a great game, so did Stanislav
Chistov or Denis Grebechkov on defense. When the game was decided, Marian Havel scored a goal
to prevent Andrei Medvedev from a shutout. Soon after that Milan Michalek and Daniel Volrab scored
their markers, but the margin was too high. There couldn’t help even a great end of the game
like against USA. It was finished. Stanislav Chistov scored his second to set the score to 8:3,
the same like in the preliminary round. The Czechs had to play for bronze.

They met there the home Finnish team, who suffered a disappointing 4:2 loss to Switzerland in the
semifinals and had to play “only” for the bronze medal. It wasn’t a success for the team led by
Mikko Koivu and backstopped by top 2002 prospect Kari Lehtonen. On the other side the Czechs were
fighting for a medal which they haven’t had around their necks for long seven years.
The Finns had a more succesfull beginning when Jaakola scored after a pass from another top 2002
prospect Sean Bergenheim to give the Finns an one-goal lead with nearly four minutes played.
The Czechs didn’t want to have to cut a deficit, but they had to. The Finns played great
defensively, were smart with the puck and allowed almost nothing to the Czech team. They wanted
to change it after the first period. They could make use of a powerplay with Sean Bergenheim
sitting in the penalty box. One second after Bergenheim was back on the ice Petr Kanko fired
the puck behind Kari Lehtonen after a pass from Lukas Chmelir. The game was tied and the Czech
dream could come true. This lasted only for three minutes, because after that time Mikko Koivu
set up Sean Bergenheim for a goal which turned out to be a game winner. The Czechs couldn’t
turn the game into a win, the Finnish defensive play was outstanding and so was Kari Lehtonen.

After 60 minutes were tears in the eyes of Czech players instead of bronze medals around their
necks. The fourth place looked bad for a while, but it isn’t such a bad place after all. The
sixth place from the last Under-18 WJC is forgotten and the Czechs proved, that they have a
strong attitude and good skills. They only lacked more luck in scoring.

In my last article about the Under-18 WJC I’ll have a look at the individuals of the Czech
team, with some thoughts on their play and possible moves on the CSB final rankings!

Individual player scoring
Petr Kanko  7       6        1       7
Jiri Novotny  6       4        3       7
Petr Puncochar  7       2        3       5
Petr Domin  7       0        5       5
Lukas Chmelir  7       0        4       4
Marian Havel                      7       2        1       3
Frantisek Bakrlik                 7       2        1       3
Tomas Micka                       7       1        2       3
Daniel Volrab                     7       2        0       2
Tomas Plihal                      7       1        1       2
Milan Michalek                    7       1        1       2
Zbynek Novak                      7       0        2       2
Martin Toms                       7       1        0       1
Martin Laska                      7       0        1       1
David Turon                       7       0        1       1
Jan Rehor                         7       0        1       1
Miroslav Kopriva                  7       0        0       0
Ondrej Danicek                    7       0        0       0
Lukas Dobry                       7       0        0       0
Martin Soucek                     7       0        0       0
Jan Holub                         7       0        0       0
Jan Platil                        7       0        0       0

Goaltender statistics
Miroslav Kopriva                 5   241  130   16   3,99  87.69%
Martin Laska                     3   176   83   12   4,10  85.54%