new one, where the top three teams from both groups qualify for the final group, while the
less succesfull ones have to fight in the relegation group. This system is again a coin of
two sides. The plus is that one spoiled game doesn’t destroy your whole tournament showing,
which is the case by quarterfinal losses. The downside is then that the team faces necessity
of being among the top three team from the six-team group. This year the Czech team has
to battle Canada, Russia, host Slovakia, Germany and Norway in the Group A of the Under-18 WJC.
They had a relatively easy schedule, where the weaker teams Slovakia, Norway and Germany
came first and after then Canada and Russia. So the team could face the tougher opponents
with already enough game experience. But the history has shown that the Czech team sometimes
isn’t reluctant to losses to relatively easy opponents. When looking at the last year’s
Under-18 WJC, they lost 1:3 to Germany, which was looking like a huge surprise. This year
they avoided any stumbles like this as the Czechs have beaten Slovakia, Norway and also
Germany. They could also win another two points from the contest against Canada before
suffering the first Under-18 WJC loss to Russia. This could be the loss which may prevent the
Czech team from winning the championship title, but we’ll see. They play a very solid game
and the first line shows signs of excellence. Here are the recaps of the preliminary round games.
Czech Republic – Slovakia 5:1
A very important game. The Czechs felt the need of a win to have a good start into the
tournament, which would jumpstart the team and bring the important points for the standings.
The home Slovaks had support from the cheering crowd and looked to be a solid opponent. Their
top prospect is hulking Skalica blueliner Richard Stehlik, who already performed at the 2002
WJC. But the Czechs took control of the game already in the first minute. Blue-chipper Jiri
Hudler grabbed the puck in the neutral zone and found Milan Michalek with a perfect crosspass.
Michalek went by a Slovak defenseman, avoided the hit and fired the puck into the Slovak net
with a wrist shot which went along Marek Roznik’s shoulder.
The Czechs increased the lead seven minutes
later and it was sized Jan Kubista who has beaten Roznik when he scored on a slapper from the
right faceoff circle. After that the Czechs could control the Slovak raids and Lukas Mensator
in the Czech net didn’t have much workload. And Jan Kubista, who was the Czech star of the game,
added another two points for two assists. First he created a great chance for Kamil Kreps,
who needed just to tip the puck into the Slovak net to set the score at 3:0. With only seconds
left to play in the second Jiri Hudler tallied his first at the WJC and about the result
Michal Barinka, who was along with Ondrej Nemec, also entered the scoresheet with an
scored early in the third period. Barinka fired a hard shot which went through a screen and
the Czechs were leading by five. Lukas Mensator was exactly one minute shy from his first
WJC shutout, but Michal Lukac was against it. He has beaten Mensator after a mess in front of
him, setting the final result at 5:1 for the Czech Republic.
Czech Republic – Norway 7:4
It would be a mistake to underestimate the gritty team of Norway. Their future star and 2002
sleeper Patrick Thoresen is no longer eligible, so they have to rely on a team’s performance
more than on one bright individuality. And they really caused some trouble to the young
Czechs. First Mathis Olimb gave them the lead when he scored his marker already in the first
minute and during the first stanza they could be an equal opponent to the Czechs. Jakub
Langhammer brought confidence on the Czech sticks again as he tied the game when he
scored after a rebound. Three minutes later hulking Tomas Csabi finished the turnover so
the Czechs were in an one-goal lead going into the second period.
The Norway team didn’t
want to give up and they gritty performance payed other dividends as Mathis Olimb has beaten
goalie Lukas Musil after a mess. With five minutes left to play in the second period there were three
goals scored in three minutes. First Milan Michalek gave the Czechs the lead again after
a nice deke and in the next minute Simen Saxrud tied the outing again as the Czechs looked
to have lost concentration for some seconds. But they found it immediately again, Milan
Michalek went on a breakaway but was tripped and the Czechs were awarded by a penalty shot.
Michalek stayed calm and his wrister surprised the goalie Vegard Sagbakken.
The third period should decide about the winner. For a long time the teams battled in the
neutral zone, waiting for a mistake of the opposition, till Jiri Hudler made use of the
power play and tallied the fifth Czech goal. Marius Holtet gave the team Norway another
hope as he could cut the deficit one minute later, but with two minutes to go Lukas
Pabiska scored another goal, which was the game-breaker. It came on the powerplay, Pabiska
won the loose puck and after shuffling it has sent it behind Sagbakken’s back.
In the last minute then Jiri Hudler
scored his second this game, an empty-netter, and the last goal of the game. The Czech way
to the win was more tougher than the result says.
Czech Republic – Germany 6:1
Just like in the two previous contest, there was a goal scored with only seconds played.
Fortunately, it was the Czech team which was the lucky one. Waterbug Roman Vondracek slipped
into the German zone, fooled the defensemen and deked Patrick Koslow to give the Czechs a narrow
Just five minutes later Roman Bilek scored another one and after the first period the
Czech team didn’t seem to have much trouble with the bringing the game to the victory. Jakub
Klepis and Michal Barinka scored just seconds apart, which meant the most succesfull period
for the Czech team so far. Michal Barinka secured his spot of the most productive Czech
rearguard as another of his point shots finished in the opponent’s net. After this goal
German goalie Koslow was replaced in the net by Patrick Ehelechner.
During the second period the Czech team convinced everybody, that they won’t allow any
turnover in this contest. 2003 star prospect Milan Michalek found the net twice and even
if the Czechs gave up one shorthanded goal scored by Max Seyller, they could control the game
The Michalek’s goals were scored after nice passing plays of Portland’s Jakub Klepis, showing that
of Jakub Klepis – Jiri Hudler – Milan Michalek really clicked. Klepis created the chances as
he took the pucks from the German players away and and then fed Michalek with a perfect
pass, which made the scoring looking easy.
The third period didn’t any excitement to the public. The Czechs were already preparing for
their upcoming match against Canada and the Germans knew that the game is over for them. Only
after the final buzzer Jiri Hunkes and Max Seyller were trying to start a fistcuff, before
the linesmen finished it immediately. There wasn’t much trouble for the Czech players this
Czech Republic – Canada 4:1
The first real hard opponent for the Czechs at the tournament. The battle against Canada was
also a contest of two highly touted goaltenders – Canadian Maxime Daigneault and Czech
Lukas Mensator. The Canadians had a better start into the game, after a fast passing play of
Andre Benoit and Pierre-Marc Bouchard Dylan Stanley has beaten Mensator with his wrister.
The first period was quite a defensive one and no team was rushing forward.
The Canadians took four penalties in the first half of the second period as both Pierre-Marc
Bouchard and Chris Schlenker drag two and this cost the Canadians some strength. So with
two minutes to go in the second Jiri Hudler created a huge scoring chance for Milan Michalek
with his smart pass behind the Canadian defense and Michalek tipped the puck behind Daigneault.
Jon Filewich didn’t like this fact very much and he wanted to punish Michalek seconds later
with his fists, but the two just received double minors for roughing.
With just 20 seconds played in the third period the Czechs increased the lead. Jiri Hudler
fed Ondrej Nemec with a crosspass and Nemec fired an accurate blast from the point which
surprised Daigneault. Both teams were awarded with four powerplays in the last period and
there were some scoring chances on both sides, but only one goal. Michal Barinka needed just
six seconds to make use of a Ben Eager’s penalty for elbowing. Jakub Koreis won the faceoff
in the Canadian zone, Barinka got the puck and fired a hard slapper which went through a
screen and ended behind the Canadian goalie. That was Barinka’s third Under-18 WJC goal
and gave him the lead in defensemen scoring. Nearly two minutes later the Czech crowned
their victory with the last goal of the game. Ondrej Nemec fired a shot at Daigneault, who
allowed a rebound and Jiri Hudler popped the flipping puck into the Canadian net to set
the score on the final result.
Czech Republic – Russia 3:5
Underaged scoring phenom Alexander Ovechkin and the Russian team stocked with quality
prospects was awaiting the Czechs in the last preliminary round game. They had a good
start into the game, with Sergei Anshakov in the penalty box for tripping Brampton’s Kamil
Kreps gave the Czechs the lead. Ondrej Nemec made an outlet pass to Jakub Klepis who made
a crosspass to Kreps as he crossed the blue line and Kreps has beaten Denis Khoudiakov in the
Russian net with his wrist shot. Eight minutes later hulking Anton Babchuk tied the game
with his blast from the point, but in the next minute diminutive Jiri Hudler scored on
nearly the same situation. Hudler fired a slap shot from the blue line, which was screened by
the players in front of the net. It was another powerplay goal.
In the second period Alexander Ovechkin tied the game again as he fooled Czech goalie Lukas
Mensator with his deke and seconds later Evgeni Isakov scored a goal which meant
the Russian the lead. That was the breaking point of the game. From now on the Russians
controlled the game and skated better than the Czechs. With four minutes left to play in
the second Alexander Semin scored his marker after a mess in front of Mensator to give the
Russians a two-goal cushion.
Alexei Shkotov turned it into a three-goal one after Nikolai Zherdev fed him with a crosspass
which went through the crease and landed on Shkotov’s stick. He then lifted the puck over
Mensator’s shoulder. There were only five minutes left in the game and it wasn’t very likely
that the Czechs would have a chance on a turnover. Tomas Csabi gave them a hope at least
with his goal. Csabi grabbed the puck behind the Russian net, had enough room to move
in front of it, shuffled the puck and fooled Khoudiakov with a backhand deke. A nice goal,
but also the last one. The Russians didn’t make any more mistakes and so they notched this
very important win.