Czech All Star Game of Junior and Midget Hockey recap

By Robert Neuhauser
On January, 18th, 2003, there was in the Czech city Brno the first All Star Game of Junior and Midget Hockey held. The event should feature almost every of the top Czech young hockey talent born between 1983 and 1987. Players were divided into two teams, Team West and Team East, by a simply geographical rule. The ones from the teams from the western part of the Czech Republic wore the yellow jerseys of Team West while the ones from the east-based franchises wore the blue colors of Team East. As a part of the pre-game organisational duties, every team competing in either the junior or midget Extraleague was about to select the top goaltender, defenseman and forward from their team. Once this happened the coaches Karel Najman and Petr Novak for Team West and Bretislav Kopriva with Radomir Kuzilek for Team East made the final cuts.

Among those who made the trip to Brno were the likes of 2003 eligible prospects Roman Vondracek, Josef Hrabal, Lukas Bolf, Petr Horava, Radim Hruska or Patrik Valcak, but the class of 2004 showed more brilliance with elite prospects such as Marek Schwarz, Ladislav Smid, Petr Pohl, Vaclav Meidl or Karel Hromas all arriving in the Rondo arena. Everything was set for an interesting show.

The start to the all-star afternoon provided a game between the veteran players of HC Kometa Brno and HC Dukla Jihlava. The Jihlava roster boasted even two former NHL players, Washington Capitals fans may remember the name of Milan Novy who skated with the team in the 1982-83 season. The second ex-NHLer was defenseman Milan Chalupa, a Detroit Red Wings player in 1984-85. The game turned out to be a typical veteran match, with HC Dukla Jihlava ‘old boys’ winning it 3:4. After that even the young stars already hit the ice.

The skills competition consisted only from the breakaway relay and Team West proved to be better in this skill this time. Western goaltenders Miroslav Kopriva and Marek Schwarz kept all six Team East shooters off the scoresheet while Team West scored on one attempt. Pardubice juniors forward Kamil Vavra fired the puck through Stefan Zigardy’s five-hole and decided about the winner of the skills competition. Now it had to be decided about the winner of the All Star game.

It took only 3:37 minutes of the first period before the lamp was lit for the first time and it was Team West who grabbed the lead. Lukas Bolf won the puck in the offensive zone at the boards, fired a wrist shot at Stefan Zigardy in the net for Team East, Zigardy allowed a rebound and Liberec juniors forward Lukas Pabiska returned it behind Zigardy’s back.
Youngest player on the ice, 2005 eligible Vsetin midgets captain Martin Husicka had a huge scoring opportunity only seconds later, but didn’t manage to tie the game when he failed to score on a breakaway.
It was up to a home player, Brno juniors forward Lubor Dibelka, to cut the Team West’s lead and it was the most beautiful goal in the game. Jan Korotvicka and Jiri Ripa made two passes across the neutral zone before Ripa fed Dibelka with a pass and Dibelka had nothing to do that just tip the puck in the almost empty net of Team West.
However, the Western players still had an one-goal cushion after the first period. At 9:57 Roman Vondracek, a member of the 2003 Czech WJC team, scored after a play of Ladislav Smid. Smid fooled a defenseman with his nifty stick move and then found Vondracek with a smart pass across the slot. Vondracek then just lifted the puck over Zigardy to give Team West the lead.

Just as 2004 top goaltending prospect Marek Schwarz took his position in the net for Team West haslfway through the second period, he had to face a breakaway of Radim Hruska, who managed to beat him blocker side high and tie the game.
Then came three minutes full of scoring. Goaltenders had their hands full because the players played with non-existing defense and tried to just enjoy the game. So it came that two Team West defensemen, Lukas Bolf and Ladislav Smid, led suddenly the offense. Bolf passed the puck to Smid who deked Radek Fiala, the new Team East netminder, and restored the western team lead.
The soon-tying scenario of the game continued again as Josef Hrabal was able to nullify the margin. He fired a wrister from behind the right faceoff circle which went through a screen and finished behind Marek Schwarz’s back.
Just like after the first period, also after the second period it was Team West which was holding the narrow lead. It was flashy Lukas Pabiska who provided this on a breakaway, Daniel Spacek found him at full speed with his pass and Pabiska made a great fooling move to lift the puck over Radek Fiala and score.

When Team East players weren’t able to tie the game, Team West players helped them in this task. An unfortunate rebound off the stick of Lukas Bolf found its way behind Marek Schwarz and the result of the game was still open.
Lukas Bolf made up for his mistake when he scored his first “real” goal after an accurate wrist shot from between the faceoff circles and now had Team East only ten minutes left to tie the game. And they succeeded when Krokodyli HC Brno midgets captain Jan Hruska scored a very lucky goal. He used a baseball swing to hit the flying puck and this deflection enabled him to set the final score at a 5:5 tie.

There were was no MVP declared after the game, only the individual scoring winners. Sparta Praha’s blueliner Lukas Bolf finished at the first place for Team West with 3 points for 1 goal and 2 assists while Krokodyli HC Brno right winger Lubor Dibelka won the Team East’s scoring race with exactly the same effort as Bolf.