By Robert Neuhauser and Ivana Paulova
the Swiss team was eager to capture at least one victory in this series. On Sunday they had
the last chance. The contest took place in Slany and the audience could look forward to an
interesting match. Two different styles met there. The Czechs use their typical smart game
and rely on skill and finesse while the Swiss play with high determination and tend to
fire the pucks and look for rebounds and loose pucks.
The Czechs gave chance to all three of their goalies and this time stood Slavia Praha midgets
netminder Petr Bezunk between the pipes. The Swiss brought two goalies to the Czech Republic
and in this game coach Charly Oppliger has put his faith in Igor Rossi. Both sides shuffled
the lineup a bit and the lines looked different than in the previous two games.
Since the opening faceoff the Czechs were dominant in the game with their individual skills,
the Swiss defense looked porous at the beginning of the game and only a piece of luck was
missing on the Czech side. The young Czechs seemed to fly on the ice and could take
advantage of one-on-one situations, where they were better. The first quality chance came
three minutes into the game, Radomir Cizek fired from the top right faceoff circle, Rossi made
the save but allowed a rebound. Vaclav Meindl tried to lift the puck over the Swiss goalie
before the Swiss defensemen checked him down on the ice.
The Swiss players tried to penetrate into the Czech zone off the wings, fire at Bezunk
and then rebound the puck. Stefan Moser delighted the crowd with a beautiful move when he
deked the Czech defenseman and Petr Bezunk increased the excitement of the audience when he
found Moser’s shot in his glove.
After the first ten minutes when the game was more up-and-down the defenses began to take
the leading role. The Czech defensemen were concentrating on keeping the Swiss players
off the slot and so they couldn’t look for rebounds. The forwards were also helping a lot,
but they had to score a goal first. Zdenek Bahensky had a very good powerplay chance, he
received the puck in the neutral zone, reached high speed after a few strides and faked both
Swiss defensemen on his way to the Swiss goal off the left wing. Then he tried to bring
Rossi out of position with a forehand-backhand stick move and then lifted the puck. Again only
luck was missing, the puck hit the right goalpost.
The Swiss players relied more on individual raids into the Czech zone more than on a whole line
performance. Alternate captain Raffaele Diaz had two huge chances on his shift, first he had
trouble with a hard pass which came across the slot, the puck jumped over his stick and Bezunk
had to breathe a sigh of relief because he was standing at the other side of the net at that
time. Only seconds later Diaz was on a lone breakaway but his low wrist shot was turned away
At 17:44 the score changed for the first time and Igor Rossi was the one who had to bring the
puck out of the net. Jan Dusatko won the puck at the boards in the neutral zone and passed
it to Michal Birner, one of the top prospects for the 2004 draft. Birner deked the Swiss
defenseman while the other was unsuccesfully chasing him as he was crossing the Swiss zone.
Rossi had to move to other goalpost and right in this moment Birner unleashed an accurate
wrist shot to beat Rossi high blocker side. The Czechs had finaly their lead and they weren’t
tantalized any more. It was evident in their play, they skated more effortlessly and
were in control of the game.
They didn’t loose the control also in the second period. The play was in front of Rossi for
most of the time and the Swiss players had really a tough time with the Czech defense. The
future looks very bright for the Czechs in defense as there were three 1987 born underagers
in the defensive corps. None of the Czech defensemen allowed to be brought out of position
and they kept the play in front of them. The Swiss had no breakway chances and the Czech
defensemen made fast passes immediately as they took the puck away from the Swiss players.
The forwards then showed their skills, only that they could shoot more on Rossi, some
of his saves looked quite weak. But the Czechs sometimes overhandled the puck and so some
chances were over before they really began.
Ostrava midgets winger Martin Bucek had one great chance soon after the beginning of the
period but he couldn’t pop the jumping puck into the almost empty net. Rossi was lucky again.
He surely wasn’t at 5:10 of the second period. Alternate captain Karel Hromas fed Michal
Birner with a pass in the Swiss zone, Birner shuffled the puck, fooled Rossi and suddenly
he lifted it into the air from a two feet distance from Rossi. The puck hit the crossbar and
finished behind Rossi’s back. That was Birner’s second goal in the game.
Trinec midgets center Vaclav Meindl showed that he is a prospect to count on with his play
in this three-game series. He proved it also in this game and in the second period as he
prepared a great scoring chance in the 11th minute. Meindl made two elusive moves to avoid
hits from the Swiss defensemen, raced to the Swiss zone and passed the puck to his Trinec
midgets teammate David Krejci, but Rossi moved fast to the other goalpost and the puck hit
only his pads.
The Swiss team didn’t make use of a 85 seconds lasting two-man advantage, Vladimir Villard
missed an almost empty net but the puck wasn’t calm on his stick and it was very tough
to control. So there was a chance on the Czech side and it was Vaclav Meindl again who
had the chance. He got a puck on his stick near the Swiss blue line and the Swiss defensemen
allowed a breakaway. Meindl decided to shoot but he missed the net.
On the other side of hockey skill Jakub Kindl, one of the 1987 born defensemen delivered
a booming open-ice hit for which he got some cheers from the audience.
For this game the coaches formed a great offensive line of Lubomir Stach and captain
Adam Lukacovic on
defense and Karel Hromas-Jan Dusatko-Michal Birner on offense. This line could also carry the
name “Praha line” because except of Stach who is from Vsetin midgets
all the players play for one of the top two Praha midget teams-
Sparta or Slavia. Those players combined really well and their overall skill and hockey
sense made the Swiss opposition look funny sometimes. All of those players are 2004 eligible
and all of them can be considered as serious prospects.
During the third period the pace of the game slowed down a bit and the Czech team went the
straighest way to victory. The Swiss players skated faster and sometimes they could bring
themselves into scoring position but the Czech defense did a good job in keeping Bezunk a
good view on the puck and preventing rebounds and odd man rushes. The Czech forwards still
created nice scoring chances but they didn’t have enough time or luck to score. With Simon
Bachmann in the penalty box Radek Smolenak had a good chance, he went with the puck on
his stick behind the Swiss net, shuffled the puck and tried to surprise Rossi. The surprise
didn’t come out, Rossi had his pad next to the goalpost where Smolenak wanted to fire the puck
into the Swiss net.
Almost the same situation took place in the 7th minute, but this time it was Vaclav Meindl
who was shuffling the puck behind the Swiss net. And also at this time Rossi was ready and
the Swiss were still trailing by two goals.
The Czechs quite easily controlled the game in the third period and it looked like the Swiss
team run out of steam and that they know that they won’t turn the game over.
Karel Hromas could increase the lead in the 12th minute when he took away the puck from a Swiss
defenseman, turned over, saw nobody attacking him and so he tried to deke Rossi but his
attempt to lift the puck over Rossi’s shoulder went high over the Swiss net.
Five minutes later the Czechs created the last scoring chance. In was an individual play of
Trinec midgets center David Krejci, Krejci got the puck in his own zone, slipped past one
Swiss player as he crossed the red line and now he had only one defenseman in front of him.
Krejci tried to move around him while he left the puck between the Swiss player’s legs.
It was a nice play but the Swiss player was able to fire the puck away. During the last three minutes
of the game the Czechs ruled and they just defended their two-goal lead. The last five seconds
the Czech bench was standing and the players celebrated the victory. After that they rallied
to Petr Bezunk who got the shutout. The fact is that he didn’t have to face many shots and
when there was suddenly a Swiss chance he had to make a save even if he didn’t have to for
a long time before which isn’t good for a goalie. He along with Michal Birner were one of
the best Czech players in this game.
Coach Vlastimil Koci’s comment: We were totally dominant in this game, which wasn’t a sure
thing in the last game. But today we really controlled the game and the puck skills of
our players were better than those of the Swiss players. I think that our biggest weapon
was combination. If I’m to name the top players today then the line of Karel Hromas-Jan Dusatko-
Michal Birner was really outstanding this game.
This three-game series gave us many tips for the future. To sum up the contest, our players
showed that they were over the Swiss, especially in individual skills. Their passing
and puckhandling was really very good and our guys were creative and able to realize their
ideas. It was an interesting confrontation with Swiss hockey and I’m glad to say that we
were better. All of our players had a good showing and I’m satisfied with their play.
Michal Birner’s comment: I’m very happy that I scored two goals today. The coaches shuffled
the lineup, created new lines and our line was really very good. We did a good job, in the
first game I didn’t play very well even though I scored one goal,
on Saturday I think I had my best showing but I went
scoreless – I didn’t hit the empty net twice and once my shot ended at the goalpost. The
Swiss players played quite aggresive, their coaches taught them the Canadian style of play
but their style of defense was concentrated on defending every player personally and if
anyone could deke the opposing player, we had a scoring chance. We had enough motivation from
the previous three-game series against Slovakia and I think that our combination was
dominating in this series.
We are looking forward to give you detailed info on the upcoming World Junior Championship,
that will take place in the Czech Republic. You will be able to
read game recaps, interviews with the
best players and interesting player profiles. Watch out!