Bill Streicher/Icon SMI)
The 2012 World Championship is heading towards its conclusion in Helsinki, Finland. Today was the semi-final round, with Russia and Slovakia advancing to the final following their victories today.
HF caught up with a few of the principals from today's contests, with those interviews being presented below.
Russia 6 vs Finland 2
Joonas Jarvinen, Defenseman, Team Finland
23-year-old defenseman Joonas Jarvinen is your pure defensive defenseman, but he’s arrived on the scene this past season in a big way. Throughout the winter, he played a big role for the Pelicans Lahti and was called into the national team for a number of games, earning a bigger and bigger role as the months passed by. Now he’s been taking a regular shift throughout these World Championships.
Here is Hockey’s Future’s postgame chat with this up-and-comer.
Hockey’s Future: Very difficult 6-2 loss to Russia today. What was the difference in the team’s performance today and Thursday against the USA?
Joonas Jarvinen: We were a little too laid back today. We allowed too much space for the Russians to gain momentum and attack. It was too easy for them today. Just too easy. That’s all I can say right now.
HF: What’s it like for a young guy like you in your first ever World Championships to play against guys like Evgeny Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin?
JJ: It doesn’t matter that much. Of course they are good, no great, players, but they don’t make the whole team. I don’t know, it’s just so disappointing, especially since Malkin and Ovechkin provided a lot of the offense. We knew they had to be given special attention and they scored anyways.
HF: Despite the loss, you did get what I think was your second assist of the tournament today. Were you excited about that?
JJ: It was my second assist, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t care. The goal came late and couldn’t help the team. In the end, it was a loss and that kind of thing plays no role.
HF: Is this nonetheless a thrill for you to be in front of the home country crowd here playing your first WC tournament?
JJ: It’s been special and it’s been awesome to be here playing these games, but now it doesn’t feel so awesome.
HF: There’s still a big bronze medal game tomorrow. How do you put this one behind you and concentrate on the next big game?
JJ: I think we’ll just maybe see what we didn’t do so well in this game. Then we’ll forget this game. It doesn’t matter anymore. We can’t do anything more about today and tomorrow will be a new game.
HF: New day, new game. You’re a young guy who made a name for himself this season. Do you know where you’ll be playing next season?
JJ: Not yet. That’s still to be decided.
Slovakia 3 vs Czech Republic 1
Petr Tenkrat, Forward, Czech Republic
HF: What was your take on this loss, in which a few things just didn’t bounce your way?
PT: I think it was an entertaining, up and down hockey game. They play really good in their zone. They hold their box formation consequently and make it so difficult to get pucks to the net. They scored three goals and that’s why they won today.
HF: A lot of players got injured during the game. Did this brotherly rivalry mean more physicality than usual?
PT: Well, maybe. I didn’t see what exactly happened to Martin Erat (Ed. Note: concussion), but Michal Frolik got hit awkwardly in the neutral zone. I don’t know. It was a tough game, for sure, and one we ended up losing.
HF: Tomorrow you’ll be going for the bronze. Do you still have the energy necessary to take on Team Finland?
PT: Of course, we have to find energy for tomorrow’s game. It’s going to be huge for both teams. We definitely have to put this one behind us quickly.
HF: After you beat Sweden the other night, was the Czech team happy and excited to find out you’d be playing against your rival Slovakia instead of Canada?
PT: We didn’t really worry about who we were going to play in the semifinals. Like many, we were a bit surprised that Slovakia beat Canada, but we knew that, like us, they had played some good hockey in this tournament. The game ended up being really good and like I said, they scored more goals. We couldn’t seem to score. They are now going to play for gold.
Ales Hemsky, Forward, Czech Republic
HF: You played an excellent game today. You created a lot of opportunities, right to the very end. What do you think was the turning point in today’s game?
AH: Ah, we knew they were going to clog up the neutral zone and play tight, dedicated defense. We wanted to play an up-and-down style with some running and gunning. The turning point was likely when they scored the shorthanded goal to start off the third period and take a 2-1 lead. That kind of thing just can’t happen in a game like this. Things just didn’t happen for us tonight.
HF: Once you knew you were heading to the semifinals, were you actually glad to see you’d have the chance to face your neighbors and former countrymen?
AH: At this point, it really doesn’t matter who you play against. Every team is good at this point and you just have to prepare for each new opponent accordingly. Unfortunately it didn’t happen for us today.
HF: Will it be difficult to get yourselves motivated for the bronze medal game tomorrow?
AH: Yes, for sure. We can still get that bronze medal and that’s huge for us. We have to forget about this and concentrate on tomorrow.
HF: What are your thoughts on Team Finland?
AH: They’re the home team and they’ve played well this tournament. They have a great team. The crowd will be behind them and it’ll be a tough game, like every game.
Petr Nedved, Forward, Czech Republic
HF: What exactly didn’t go as planned today?
PN: Well, once they took the lead, we had to change how we wanted to play. We had to open things up. We didn’t get the desired result.
HF: Any thoughts on Team Finland?
PN: They’re the best skating team in this tournament. They’ll be tough to play against. It’ll be tough to put this loss behind us, but we’re professionals and everyone knows we have to do this. Since they can skate, we’ll have to find a way to slow them down in the neutral zone.
HF: Despite the loss, how special is this tournament for you being 40 years old and finally playing for you native country at a World Championship?
PN: It’s a disappointing end. We really thought we could play for gold and that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down and right now, the team and I are down. I wanted more.
Andrej Sekera, Defenseman, Team Slovakia
HF: How special is this for you right now?
AS: Just super. We got our effort. We told ourselves right from the beginning of the tournament that we wanted that effort, day out and day in, and so far it’s working for us.
HF: So you’re no longer under the radar in this tournament?
AS: Oh, we’re definitely on the radar. We’re one of only two teams standing here. Russia has got to be considered the big favorite. We’ve dealt with not being that thus far and we’ll manage it again tomorrow.
HF: The keys to this victory in this game?
AS: We got some key goals at key moments. We then brought good team defense, did some good defending, got some really good goaltending with some timely saves and skated well. We kept moving the puck well and didn’t make any turnovers at the bluelines.
HF: What do you say to Miroslav Satan’s performance today?
AS: Great. He’s simply a sniper and he showed that goal-scoring quality he’s known for. He is dangerous in front of the net. He showed that once again today.
HF: Are you happy for him?
AS: I am very happy for him! And we’re all happy for the whole team. In the pre-tournament games we played, we lost like five games in a row. Some were by one goal or a shootout and everyone was doubting us. We knew we had a great group of guys and that if we all played for the team, anyone could make a big impact in this tournament.
HF: Do you guys like the role of being the underdogs?
AS: I guess we do. We’ve been underdogs the whole tournament. It has been working for us and I think when you’re an underdog, you simply have less pressure on you, also psychologically.
HF: Do you remember what happened the last time Slovakia and Russia met in a WC final?
AS: I guess that Russia lost and Slovakia won?
HF: That’s absolutely correct!
AS: Hopefully history will repeat itself. We’ve tried winning every game and we will now give everything to win this last one. That’ll be a good way to end the season.
HF: Especially after the year you experienced in Buffalo…
AS: Yes, really… We didn’t make the playoffs and we battled so hard over the last few months to make them. We missed by a couple of points. But then as soon as I got this invite, I said ‘yes’ right away. I don’t regret it in the least.
Thomas Kopecky, Forward, Team Slovakia
HF: Thomas, be it Detroit, Chicago, even Florida and now here, wherever you go, you seem to be part of a winner. What’s the secret?
TK: I don’t know. I have been really fortunate to be on some really good teams and most especially in Detroit, I learned a lot from the older guys. Now I’m that older guy and I try to pass along that experienced I gained in Detroit and what I learned in Chicago, that it’s a tough game and one of mistakes. Right now we are enjoying this and we have some great chemistry. We have a bunch of young guys and a bunch of veteran guys. Some are in that middle-aged group. The goaltenders are playing well and the confidence is very high. We try to live in the moment and don’t try to look too far ahead.
HF: Do you like to play with young guys like Tomas Tatar?
TK: Yep, I mean, he’s a very talented player and he’s from my home town, so these guys like him, when I talk to them, they need to hear that this is a game of mistakes. We’re at a stage right now where one little mistake can cost you the game and thus, the gold medal. You know, they’re learning and I’ve been there and I’ve done that. We try to help them as much as we can and try to stay positive as much as we can. I think kids like him are doing a great job. Once they become the older players for Slovakia, I hope they too will then pass along all this stuff they’re learning now.
HF: How excited were you when you saw that the Czechs had beaten Sweden. Did you see that as extra motivation for today’s game, playing against your neighbors to the north?
TK: Yep, you know, everyone kind of mentions that it’s some big rivalry between the Slovaks and Czechs. It’s just good for hockey. You have these rivalries in the NHL and you see these rivalries here and it’s in something like this where the whole country comes together. These rivalries just make the game so interesting, especially when you win them!
HF: Do you see this tournament at all as a way of Team Slovakia making up for the early loss in the tournament in Slovakia last year, where of course Slovakia was the host country?
TK: I don’t know. It’s tough to say. That was a whole different format of playing…
HF: Do you like the new format?
TK: I think this format is much harder for the players. You know, we’ve already played almost nine games and it’s tough. We play a lot of back-to-back games or four games in seven nights. It’s tough for the players, especially those who don’t play in the NHL and are not used to this. Most of the guys are actually handling it really well, but it’s definitely tougher for the players. Still, it can be much nicer when you’re actually winning.
HF: And getting back to compensating for last year’s loss in Slovakia?
TK: This is special for us and I’m really happy for everyone back home. I’m sure that everyone back home is celebrating. I remember when it was 2002 and Slovakia won the gold. I remember right where I was and who I watched the game with.
HF: And you remember who that was against?
TK: Oh yes, against Russia. It’s a special feeling because I remember exactly where I was, where I was sitting, what time it was … You always watch a game like that and wish you could one day be in a situation like that and now we’re there and we have to enjoy it and live for the moment. We’ve got to give it all tomorrow. We have nothing to save any energy for. We have the whole summer to regenerate and regroup. We have to play our best hockey tomorrow.
HF: Will the team be changing anything?
TK: No, I don’t think so. Don’t change what’s not broken.
HF: Will it be extra exciting for you to face Pavel Datsyuk?
TK: He’s a great player and I’ve now played against him in the league. I learned a lot from him back in the day in Detroit, just watching him and practicing with him. He was one of those guys who I just focused on and watched what he would do. Everyone sees that he’s so skilled, but what not everyone sees is that he works so hard to be able to do what he does.
HF: Last question – Zdeno Chara is your countryman, but really, what’s it like playing with him?
TK: He’s our biggest leader and he sets the tone and determines how we play. It’s tough to say in a word – I mean heck, I don’t think he left the ice over the last fifteen minutes of the game. And he loves it. The more he plays, the better he is. It’s unbelievable. I don’t think he ever gets tired. He’s got that long stick and that huge reach. It’s really just unbelievable. The way he leads this team, we have our heads bowed and hats off to him.