Czech Republic Under-20 team at Five Nations Tournament

By Robert Neuhauser
The glory days are over. Everything was said and done about the last WJC, the players celebrated
the victories and now play in their respective leagues in the Czech Republic or Canada. Rostislav
Klesla said his statement about the Canadian play at the WJC, Don Cherry replied, but that was
yesterday. By this time it’s time for the Under-20 teams to start over. 1981 born guys are gone
and those born 1982 or later took their place. The first test for those teams took place in
Fussen, Germany, the city where the 1999 Under-18 WJC was played, in the first week of February.

Jaroslav Holik, head coach of the Czech Under-20 team, selected a whole new team, which
consisted of top Czech junior hockey league players with minimum of playing experience in the
Czech Extraleague. It was the first meeting between the 18-year old players and the charismatic
head coach, who wanted to get to know something about the players. For this reason were 2000
World champions Vaclav Nedorost and Tomas Plekanec left at home. They’re proven enough and they
have their roster spots ensured in the Under-20 team. They both play important roles for their
Extraleague teams and the Extraleague games will give them more than those against the players
of their own age in Fussen. By the way, Vaclav Nedorost was selected to perform for the Czech
senior national team at the Sweden hockey games, but he suffered a shoulder injury during his
practice with HC Ceske Budejovice and the injury prevented him from participating at the event.

A brand new team, using four complete lines, played its first game at the tournament against
Switzerland. The game turned out to be a 2:2 tie, with goals for the Czech Republic scored
from Petr Jaros of HC Slavia Praha and Miloslav Komarek of HC Pojistovna Pardubice. The game
was a tight battle with lots of checking and the defense played the main role during this game.

The players got to know each other’s style of play and were better prepared for the second game
against Finland. Those two countries met in the finals at the 2000 WJC and this was the first
opportunity for the Finns to revenge. But the Finns failed to do so. The Czechs had a lot of
scoring opportunities and they trailed 0:1 going into the second period. In the second period
Tomas Cachotsky of SK Jihlava and Miroslav Blatak created a turnover, but the game result was
once again a 2:2 tie. If he Czechs scored from every opportunity they had, they would win, that’s
for sure. On the other side the good skating and tight defense payed immediate dividends for
the Finnish squad.

After the third game the Czech became specialists for tied games. They played against Sweden
and for a long time it looked like the Czech are going to record their first win at the
tournament. Martin Urbasek, a defenseman playing for Prerov of the major junior league, who
was drafted by the Oshawa Generals of the OHL at the 1999 CHL Import draft, presented his
great shot from the point twice and this effort along with a goal scored by Jiri Palice, a
longtime linemate of Tomas Plekanec in the midgets and juniors of Kladno, gave the Czechs
a three-goal lead. But it was nothing.

In the first period the Czechs were full of speed, skill
and agility and created better scoring chances than the Swedes, but it was lost after the half
of the game. During four minutes the Swedes rallied back with a storm of three goals to set
the score at a 3:3 tie. That was the result of the game and Jiri Palice unfortunately suffered
an injury, a soft concussion after he hit the boards with his head. He missed the last game
of the tournament, the Czechs faced the young Germans in this game. The Germans weren’t
expected to be of any trouble and the Czechs really showed that they are better. They outplayed
the Germans in skating, aggresivity and hockey smarts. A 3:0 lead going into the third period
wasn’t enough, the Czechs scored five times to finish at 5:1. Petr Koukal of Pardubice scored
twice and Tomas Cachotsky, Miloslav Komarek and Petr Vampola scored their markers in the win.

The first win. But on the other hand the Czechs were unbeaten in the tournament. A good sign
for the new team, they played well in Fussen. Some players like Miloslav Komarek or Martin
Urbasek increased their chances for being selected to the next WJC team, but most important
will be the hockey camp, held during the hot days of the summer, with CHL players participating.
Time will tell, who will play at the next WJC, but those players weren’t bad!