World Junior Cup: Czech Republic-Russia game recap

By Robert Neuhauser
The Czech Republic-Russia game of the World Junior Cup promised to be a very exciting battle.
The Czech Republic has a very strong 1984 birthyear concerning hockey players and they met the
always strong Russians. It was obvious that the game won’t be a hard-hitting contest but a
game full of speed and skill. The Czech lineup boasted lots of players with NHL potential, like
goaltenders Lukas Mensator, who was the starter of the game and Lukas Musil, defensemen Ondrej
Nemec, Martin Cizek or Marek Chvatal. But the brightest gems were on the offense. Jakub
Langhammer, Jakub Klepis and Jakub Koreis are serious 2002 prospects, while captain Milan
Michalek is 2003 and youngster Rostislav Olesz 2004 eligible.

The Russians build every year a very strong competitive squad with some great individuals.
In the 1984 birthyear those are the likes of defenseman Anton Babchuk, who already played at
the 2001 Under-18 WJC, Kirill Stepanov and some really great offensive prospects. Those involve
top prospects Vladislav Evseev, Dmitri Kazionov, Evgeni Isakov, Dmitri Korneev, Igor Ignatouchkin,
and of course 2003 star prospect Nikolai Zherdev. Simply a very tough opponent for the
Czechs to beat.

Immediately after the begginning of the game the Czech line had a strong first shift, as Milan
Michalek passed a nice pass on the tape of Jakub Koreis, but Kirill Stepanov blocked his wrist
shot. In the first minutes of the game the Czechs tried to put the Czechs under some pressure
and eventually score the leading goal. Rostislav Olesz, even if a late 1985 birthyear, showed
often his aggresive fighting for the puck and had a nice individual play of his own as he deked
the Russian defenseman but Denis Khoudiakov in the net for Russia made the save. Then the
Russians began to wake up and Dmitri Kazionov began to show a willingness for using his body
as he threw two clean bodychecks in one shift. The Russians were now more often in the Czech
zone and Igor Ignatouchkin made a dangerous deflection of a teammate’s shot, which fortunately
hit Lukas Mensator. Dmitri Korneev had the first scoring chance for the Russians as he got
the puck on his stick in the neutral zone, rallied into the Czech zone, avoided the contact
with the Czech defenseman but couldn’t lift the puck over Lukas Mensator, who made the save.
But that was nothing against the huge chance Andrei Temirtachev had seconds later. The Russian
defenseman made a really great pass from his own zone to Alexander Semin, who was ready to
receive at the Czech blue line. Semin got the puck on his tape and went along with Temirtachev
almost alone on Lukas Mensator, because the Czech defenseman was unsuccesfully chasing the
two. Mensator concentrated on the player with the puck, Semin, who immediately passed it to
Temirtachev, who had a complete empty net in front of him. Maybe it was a bit of nervousness,
maybe the puck wasn’t fully under Temirtachev’s control, but Andrei missed the empty net.

The Czech revenge came soon. Tomas Csabi has found Jakub Langhammer with his pass, Langhammer
stood between the faceoff circles and sent his wrister near the right goalpost to beat Denis
Khoudiakov and secure a 1:0 lead for the Czechs.

With Alexei Stonkous in the penalty box for roughing, Roman Vondracek had another good scoring
chance. The smallish Sparta Praha juniors forward knocked the puck off the air with his skate
in the neutral zone and had only one defenseman in front of him. Roman decided to shoot but
his shot was a near miss.

Dmitri Korneev had then the first lone breakaway in the game, but it was Lukas Mensator who
stole the show when he stopped Korneev’s forehand deke. The Russians used their perfect skating
to put themselves into scoring chances and the Czech defense had some hard time with stopping
their raids. At this time it looked like the Russians rule the ice and the game will be tied soon.
At moments they had to use fouls to stop the flashy Russian forwards and so it came that Michal
Barinka and alternate captain Jakub Koreis sat both in the penalty box for kneeing and the
Russians could enjoy a 1:35 two man advantage. They didn’t enjoy it very long. Anton Babchuk
stood on the blue line as the powerplay quarterback and passed the puck to the forwards. With
nearly 40 seconds to play in the first period, Babchuk took the puck, passed it immediately
to Nikolai Zherdev while looking at the other side, Zherdev at the boards immediately found
Igor Ignatouchkin near the left goalpost, who lifted the puck over Lukas Mensator to tie the
game. This nice play didn’t take more than two seconds.

After a useless Russian powerplay at the beginning of the second period the game was more
a defensive one and the players showed their defensive skills. Vladislav Evseev always used
his nifty stick moves and aggresive skating to slip behind the Czech defense, but the Czechs
could always stop him because they didn’t leave so much place to the Russian forwards than
in the first period. However, with 13:49 to play in the period, the Russians took the lead.
It was again Igor Ignatouchkin who had his fingers in the play. He won the puck and while
standing near the left goalpost, he passed it to Alexander Semin who lifted it over Lukas
Mennsator’s right pad. The sad Czechs were leaving for the players bench while the Russians
celebrated. Again the Russian fast skating forwards caused trouble to the Czech defense and
soon the Russians had a two-man advantage which could last for 1:15. Anton Babchuk took his
post at the blue line but this time the Czech defensive wall remained unbeaten. Babchuk has
undoubtedly great passing skills and he uses the boards wisely, but he could shoot more often.
He seems to have a cannon of a shot but a times he chooses to make a pass instead of a hard
shot which could be more dangerous. But, he still has huge offensive upside and his passes
aren’t risky.

Nikolai Zherdev and his stickhandling skills were once again on display. He delighted the eye
with nifty moves and a great takeaway ability, but he also tried to shoot. One of his slap
shots was very dangerous, but Lukas Mensator could handle the situation. The goalies were very
good on both sides and both sides protected them. With 23 seconds left to play in the second
period, Jakub Koreis was too aggresive around Denis Khoudiakov for the Russian defensemen.
Alexander Chinin and Anton Babchuk took on him behind the net and Petr Jelinek rallied to help
him while in front of the net Michal Barinka took on Alexander Semin. No one of the players
dropped the gloves because all the players wear full-visors and they would have to drop their
helmets, too. They just dropped the sticks and punched into the opponent’s visor. Six players
received minors for roughing and a ovation from the audience.

After 47 seconds of the third period Vladislav Evseev went to the penalty box for hooking
Jakub Langhammer. Ondrej Nemec, a defenseman of the Vsetin juniors, took the quarterback spot
and showed nearly the same skill as Anton Babchuk. The second alternate captain of the Czech
Under-18 tame finished his showing with a booming shot from the point. Nemec is a very good
positional defenseman with a solid offensive upside and will be the rearguard to rely on
in the games of the Under-18 team.

The Czechs desperately wanted to tie the game and this created holes in their defense. 2003
prospect Evgeni Isakov showed great skill as he deked both Czech defensemen and was able to
release a wrist shot, but Lukas Mensator made the save. He was the star of the game and he held
the Czech chances for a win or at least a tie. He proved this as he robbed Dmitri Korneev and
Evgeni Isakov on consecutive lone breakaways in the middle of the period! He turned Korneev’s
wrister away with his blocker and Isakov’s backhand deke finished on his right pad. There
wasn’t even a minute between the two breakaways.
With 9:41 left to play the Czechs had a chance to tie the game as the Russia’s bench received a
penalty for too many men on the ice, but the Czechs didn’t make use of it. Instead, they lost
Ondrej Nemec. The defenseman was fouled by a Russian player but the referee’s whistle remained
calm. Nemec was lying on the ice for about two minutes, then he stood up and yelled at the
referee some nasty words, which led to a 10-minute penalty. Nemec refused to go to the penalty box
and he sat down at the Czech players bench. After some seconds he raced from the bench, took
one of his gloves, which were still lying on the ice and threw it at the referee Turcan.
Turcan blew the whistle and gave Nemec a game misconduct penalty. After yelling again some not
very gentleman words at Turcan Nemec finally disappeared in the tunnel leading to the dressing
rooms.

Russia’s captain Maxim Sheviev was the next player lying on the ice injured soon after that.
Again, referee Turcan didn’t call it a penalty and after some minutes Sheviev was able to leave
for the players bench, with the help of his teammates.
The Czechs had then two consecutive powerplay chances. The first, served by Anton Babchuk for
high sticking, was useless, but with Evgeni Isakov in the penalty box the situation was different.
Jakub Koreis received the puck as he was already at high speed, raced alongside the Russian
defenseman, looked where Khoudiakov stands and then has shot an accurate wrist shot, which
ended behind Khoudiakov’s back. That was with 2:58 left to play and the celebrating Czechs
believed in a tie. Young Rostislav Olesz made the situation even more dramatical as he hooked
one Russian and went to the penalty box with 1:17 left to play. But the Czechs played well
defensively and allowed only one shot during those 77 seconds. The game finished as a deserving
2:2 tie.

After the game, Czech goalie Lukas Mensator and Russia’s forward Maxim Sheviev were voted
as the best players of their teams.

Czech prospects comments

Milan Michalek
The new Under-18 team captain is undoubtedly one of the top 2003 prospects in the world. Even
if still a bit raw, Michalek is already with Extraleague experience and the Ceske Budejovice
winger has the skill, size and vision to succeed in the NHL. Milan has very good playmaking
skills and isn’t a pure finisher. He looks poised and confident with the puck and his
vision and smarts allow him to make great plays. He could only use more accurate shots and
passes, but his hockey thinking is top-notch. An agile, aggresive skater is very stabile
on his skates and gets knocked off the puck only rarely. Milan is also willing to play defensively,
although his offensive side is way better. Milan posesses solid size (6’2”, 185 lbs.) but
could use his big frame more because he appears soft at times. But still a huge prospect with
great offensive upside and leadership qualitites.

Jakub Langhammer
The lanky Sparta Praha juniors winger is one of the brightest talents on the team. Jakub is
blessed with excellent smarts and playmaking abilities. Jakub passes the puck to his teammates
with high accuracy and creativity.
He prefers passing to shooting and he
could shoot more often. But Jakub also plays a great defensive game and really helps his
defensemen. He returns often back and fight for the puck and breaks up opposition’s plays.
His vision and hockey sense are also very good. On the downside, Jakub has to
further develop his skating skills if he ever wants to play in the NHL. He doesn’t have a very
fast acceleration and could be more stabile. He could also use more pounds not to get knocked
off the puck too easy. Still a bit raw but definitely a 2002 prospect who is a lock to be
selected.

Jakub Koreis
The tall Plzen juniors center is one of the team’s leaders. Jakub has a big heart and fights
for the team and for the pucks. He wins lots of them in the faceoff circle, too. Koreis is
very intense and agile and isn’t afraid of the rough stuff. Jakub goes often to the corners
or in front of the net, where hockey hurts. He has a very good slap shot but likes to control
the game and pass the pucks. Jakub is useful on both powerplay and penalty killing units
and is a reliable player. It seems that he sometimes tends to get bad penalties and sometimes
doesn’t make perfect decisions. However, he can still lok forward to the 2002 NHL draft.

Rostislav Olesz
The youngest player of the team made his Extraleague debut soon after he celebrated 15th birthday.
Incredibly smart and talented, Rostislav plays with lots of poise and confidence. He skates
very good and has a very solid puckhandling ability. Rostislav skates aggresively and fights
for scoring chances. He likes to shoot the puck and has all the arsenal. He isn’t afraid to
park in front of the net and look for rebounds. Rostislav also takes care of his own end
and can develop into a great two-way forward. Also posesses nice leadership qualities and is
one of the top 1985 born players in the world.

Ondrej Nemec
The Vsetin juniors defenseman is still a bit on the small side, but otherwise an excellent
offensive rearguard. Ondrej knows how to fill his defensive duties, even if he isn’t a hard
hitting defenseman, he more relies on his positional play, and then joins the rush. Able to
quarterback the powerplay, Ondrej has very good passing skills and a shot which is easy to
deflect. His shooting is accurate and he doesn’t tend to make risky plays. A good skater
with solid vision and sense, Ondrej will be a high pick in 2002. Only his size remains
a small drawback.

Lukas Mensator
The smallish Karlovy Vary juniors goalie played lots of games with the 1983 born players. Now
he fights also very talented Lukas Musil for the starting job in the Under-18 team. At 5’9”,
Lukas is a goalie with great quickness, reflexes and a perfect ability to read the plays. Plays
with lots of confidence and challenges the shooters. Lukas is more a butterfly goalie who
doesn’t tend to allow soft goals. Lukas is mentally very tough and is focused on the game.
The stickhandling skills will only need to be improved. A very good 2002 goalie prospect.