Czech Republic – Finland Under-19 teams game recap

By Ivana Paulova

By Robert Neuhauser and Ivana Paulova

Czech and Finnish teams, consisting of players who weren’t selected to play for the Under
-20 team play a three-game series in the Czech Republic. Have a look at the recap of
the Saturday’s game, there could be some hidden gems on those teams.

The Under-19 teams were established in the near history, they are only in their third season. Even if some people seem to underestimate those squads and name them “minors for the Under-20 team”, there appear players who can make an impact
quite soon and they are only a step away from being promoted to the Under-20 team. This year the Under-19 teams
consist of players born 1983 where almost everyone was overlooked at the NHL Entry Draft or are late-born 1983’s and so not eligible for the 2001 draft. The top 1983 born prospects moved from the Under-18 team to the Under-20 team and it’s up to those who didn’t make that jump to make a name for themselves.

On the Czech side, two players were claimed by NHL teams this past June. Slavia Praha center/left winger Zbynek Novak, an alternate captain for the Under-19 team, is a Washington Capitals draft choice and HC Bili Tygri Liberec defenseman Jan Holub was picked by the New York Islanders. Then there are players like captain Lukas Chmelir or Jan Rehor who were expected to hear their names selected at the draft, but unfortunately this didn’t happen.
The Finnish roster also boasted two players selected at the NHL Entry Draft. Goalie Tuomas Nissinen is under the watchful eye of St.Louis Blues scouts and right winger Henrik Juntunen is a Los Angeles Kings prospect.
This was the third time both teams met, the first outing was XXX and in the second the Czechs captured a 5:4 win.

Tuomas Nissinen was also the Finnish starter for the game while Vitkovice juniors goaltender Martin Falter stood between the pipes for the Czechs.
The Finnish first line of Pekka Saarenheimo-Kim Hirschovits-Marko Sakko created some excitement with their first chance of the game as Marko Sakko raced from the right wing and unleashed an accurate wrist shot but Martin Falter was able to turn it away. In the first minutes the pace of the game was quite slow, the teams were waiting for the mistakes of the opposing team. Tight defenses ruled and it was hard for the players to be creative. They were always fighting for the pucks but only very rarely shot at the goalies. The goalies didn’t have much trouble with those shots. The first Czech chance came when Zbynek Novak went with the puck behind the Finnish net, there he gave the puck to Vitezslav Bilek who passed it to Ladislav Machacek standing at the blue line. Machacek fired a hard slap shot but Nissinen made the save. At 8:25 the Finns captured the lead. They created a huge mess in front of Nissinen, nobody of the Czechs was able to fire it away and so there was Marko Sakko who finally brought it behind Falter’s back.
The goal boosted the Finnish confidence and suddenly they skated better, were the first at the puck at their tough checking made it difficult for the Czechs to slip in the Finnish zone. The Czechs were just firing the puck in the Finnish zone, hoping that they can win it at the corners again.
Then there came another chance by the Finns. Defenseman Matti Tahkapaa was leading the rush, deked the defenseman as he crossed the blue line and fired a wrist shot at Falter’s blocker, who deflected the puck into the corner. The Czechs were skating quite slow and their only chance that is worth metioning came in the 18th minute. Vitezslav Bilek stood in front of Nissinen, got a pass from behind the net but he couldn’t lift the puck over the Finnish goalie.

The second period started with penalties at both sides but no team made use of them. The Finns could threaten Falter in the fifth minute as Eetu Holma went with Arttu Luttinen on a 2 on 1 breakaway but Falter moved to the right goalpost fast enough to make a save with his pads. But overall none of the teams changed the strategy and there was still lot of grit. The Czechs still gave the Finns a lot of space. It was the undisciplinated play of the Finns which was behind the tying of the game. It was at 8:04 on a two-man advantage of the Czechs, defenseman David Turon fired a hard slap shot low on the ice and Zbynek Novak deflected it behind Nussinen’s back.
Only seconds later the Finns could gain the lead again, Tomi Mustonen raced for a lone breakaway, his first shot was turned aside by Falter, but Falter allowed a rebound. Fortunately, he made another save and the score was still 1:1.
The Czechs were awarded by another two-man advantage which lasted for 16 seconds, but they made no use of it.
So the Finns gave them a small lection of powerplay play. With Jaroslav Kracik in the penalty box for high sticking, the Finns fired a shot on Falter, the puck went high over the net and Marko Sakko hit it with his stick and the puck landed in the Czech goal. Sakko scored his second in the game and restored the Finnish lead. After that the play was very defensive again, the first Czech line of Jaroslav Kracik-Zbynek Novak-Vitezslav Bilek was dominating on the Czech team but overall the Czechs came only rarely from their defense and they were still trailing by one goal coming into the third period.

The Czech tried to tie the game soon, Martin Liba went for 1 on 1, but he couldn’t deke the defenseman so he fired a shot as he was trying to slip behind him, but Nissinen made another save. In the 6th minute Jiri Lala made a nice play, he faked two opposing players, passed the puck to Martin Liba who returned the puck to Lala immediately. Lala fired a nice wrist shot but Nissinen stood ready.
At 9:45 the Czechs finally tied the game. Ladislav Machacek got the puck on his stick as he was moving around the blue line, passed it to Jiri Svoboda, who was aiming the shot carefully. The crowd was yelling: “Fire!” but Svoboda made two strides with the puck to improve his shooting position and then finally fired a shot which went thru the Nissinen’s pads into the net.
There weren’t any nice plays during the last ten minutes of the game. Only the Finns had a quality chance to restore the lead. Defenseman Mikko Maenpaa got the puck on his tape, went between the faceoff circles and just as he wanted to fire a shot, David Turon dived to ice and blocked the shot.
The last Czech chance came at 16:45, Zbynek Novak went from the right wing direct to the Finnish net but he lifted the puck too much with his backhand shot and the puck went high over the net. At 17:10 Ilkka Tornvall went to the penalty box and the Finnish chances for a win suddenly dropped. But also the Czechs didn’t want any mistake so they weren’t very offensive. With only seconds left to play the Finns had a faceoff in the Czech zone, Zbynek Novak took the draw on the Czech side, he blocked the stick of the Finnish center to avoid a faceoff loss, the Czechs fired the puck away and the score was set – a 2:2 tie.

The game was held in the Czech town of Pribram. Both teams showed a solid performance but the fans didn’t see anything extraordinary. The game lacked enough determination and willingness to devote everything for the team and the victory. But the fans in Pribram were happy to see an international contest.The previous games took place in Strakonice (4:1 for Finland) and in Pisek (5:4 for Czech Republic)