Czech Republic Under-16 team at Four Nations Tournament

By Robert Neuhauser
The top European Under-16 teams faced each other for the first time at the Four Nations
tournament played in the Czech Republic between February, 7th and February, 9th, 2002 in
Prague. The Czechs were off star prospects Jakub Sindel and Ladislav Smid, both of them
already competing with the Under-17 team, but left a very solid impression. They finished
at the third place overall, but the results were close and they had a chance on a better
placement. So let’s check out the recaps of the games!

Czech Republic – Finland 0:4

It took only eight seconds from the opening faceoff before the Czech goalie Radek Fiala saw
the red light lit behind his net. 2004 top Finnish prospect Lauri Tukonen got the puck
in the Czech zone, shuffled it a bit before improving his shooting position and then lifted
it over Fiala from close. The Czech goalie couldn’t do anything against it, he was lying on
the ice to prevent Tukonen to score near the left goalpost and Tukonen lifted the puck right
under the crossbar.
After giving up the first goal on the first shift of the game, the Czechs had to prevent
other bad mistakes else it would be even tougher to turn the game over. The Finns took
three consecutive penalties, but the Czech powerplay didn’t turn out to be highly succesfull.
They created some chances, albeit the Finns blocked the shots well and didn’t allow any mess
in front of Janne Lakanen in the Finnish net. Michal Birner had the biggest chance as he
was suddenly in front of Lakanen with the puck on his stick. He made a fooling move, but after
that his backhand shot missed the net. The first period was quite defensive and the score
didn’t change after the Finnish leading marker.
Both teams seemed equal also at the start of the second period, the Czechs tried to use
finesse skill to score that game-tying goal they were longing for. They often tried to
deflect shots but Janne Lakanen was still unbeaten. And the Finns increased the lead at 12:02
of the second. Smallish Vesa Kulmala passed the puck to Henri Heino and Heino fed Jesse Uronen.
Uronen’s wrister went near the right goalpost and the Czechs were now trailing by two.
Nearly two minutes after that it was already by three. With Zdenek Bahensky in the penalty
box for hooking Tommi Laine one-timed Lauri Tukonen’s crosspass, leaving the Czechs worried.
With two minutes to go in the second the Czechs showed a nice play, Michal Birner and Martin
Bucek fooled the Finnish defense with fast passes, but Bucek’s attempt to score missed the
The Czechs seemed to run out of steam in the third period and the Finns controlled the pace
of the game. Shifty Jarmo Jokila could increase the Finnish lead, but his shot from the point
hit only the goalpost. In the sixth minute the Finns had a good opportunity to nearly decide about
the winner of the match as Petr Chaloupka and Martin Bucek were called to the penalty box.
Risto Korhonen’s blast from between the faceoff circles went through a screen and finished in the
Czech net with luck. After that the Finns used their fast skating to generate even more chances
and forced the Czechs to make some mistakes. However, no goal was scored any more. Janne Lakanen
got the shutout and the Czechs started with a loss.

Coach Vlastimil Koci’s comment: Two huge mistakes have cost us the game. The Finns were able
to make use of our mistakes and by doing so they decided about the result. I think that our
players were trying hard to do something with it, but unfortunately couldn’t score any goal.
We have to bounce back in the next contest.

Czech Republic – Sweden 5:2

The Swedish team, like every year full of quality prospects, was the next opponent of the
Czech team. Among the Swedish players, captain Richard Demen-Willaume, a defenseman, and
Jens Karlsson’s younger brother Sebastien along with twins John and Fred Wikner, all playing
forward, were the most promising prospects.
The Czechs had a huge scoring chance at the beginning, Michal Birner went on a lone
breakaway but the Swedish goalie Daniel Larsson made an astonishing glove save to stop Birner.
The Czechs were trying to play quite individually during the first minutes and didn’t make
lots of passes. They had quality chances, but still couldn’t score a goal. Marek Curilla
was the next one to stand Larsson face-to-face, but his shot hit only the Swedish netminder.
At 12:46 of the first the Czechs finally broke the slump and it was Vitkovice midgets winger
Petr Pohl who lit the lamp. He won the puck in the neutral zone, raced on the right wing
along the boards and then unleashed a hard, accurate slap shot which went through Larsson’s
five-hole into the net. for the first time at the tournament the Czechs were in lead.
After 32 seconds of the second the lead was over. Emil Johansson could take the puck away
from a Czech player in the neutral zone, went straight into the offensive zone, but left the
puck behind him, where was Fred Wikner. Wikner was waiting for this moment and he popped the
puck in the upper left corner of the Czech net to tie the game.
It didn’t remain tied for long. Michal Birner was checked by Patrik Hersley in front of the
Swedish net, but Czech captain Adam Lukacovic got the puck and rebounded it behind the Swedish
Three minutes after that the Czechs were awarded by a two-man advantage and lanky Trinec
midgets forward Vaclav Meidl changed the score again. He deflected a low point-shot of
Jaroslav Mrazek to secure the Czech lead.
The Swedes were quite physical in the second period, but the Czechs were able to avoid
punishing hits and create scoring opportunities. They made use of another one at 13:32. Petr
Pohl went along with Pavel Rusek on a 2-on-1 breakaway, Pohl fired a slap shot, which was
turned away by Larsson. Still, Pohl was able to grab the puck in the corner again and he
passed it to Rusek immediately.Pavel Rusek then fired the puck into the Swedish net before Larsson
was able to move to the other goalpost.
The Swedes did what they had to do at the beginning of the third stanza. After a mess in front
of Jakub Lev in the Czech net Daniel Siring won the puck and lifted it over Lev’s left pad
to cut the margin.
On a powerplay, the Czechs had nearly the same opportuinty, but Daniel Larsson controlled
two immediate rebounds of Marek Curilla’s shot. The Swedes played at a faster pace in the
third period and this brought them more scoring chances. The Czech defense had their hands
full to turn away the Swedish raids.
The biggest chance to cut Czech lead came on a penalty shot late in the period. Niklas
Olausson went on a lone breakaway but was hooked and the referee called it a penalty shot.
Sebastien Karlsson was selected to handle the situation, but he lost control of the puck
when he wanted to lift the puck backhand side and Jakub Lev made the save.
The last attempt of the Swedes to do anything with the result was as they pulled the goalie.
This didn’t turn out to be lucky,Pavel Rusek took the puck after a bad Swedish pass, went
with Petr Pohl on a 2-on-1 breakaway and instead of passing, he fired the puck into the
empty net. At 19:7 of the third that was the last goal of the game, which turned out to be
a 5:2 win of the Czechs.

Coach Vlastimil Koci’s comment: In this game it was evident that our guys can play well
against international competition. Maybe if we had one exhibition game before the tournament,
we could do better also yesterday against the Finns. Today our players were already used to the
faster pace of the international play. They were active, agile, worked very hard at both
end of the ice and I was very satisfied. They skated better, fired lots of shot and the win
was deserving in my opinion.

Czech Republic – Russia 4:4

The unbeaten Russians were the last opponent of the Czech team at the Four Nations tournament.
The Russian team was again stocked with quality prospects, with defensemen Ivan Amakhin
and Sergei Karetin along with forward Denis Parshin, Evgeny Malkin and Alexander Radulov
leading the bunch. The Russians played a speedy game with lots of skill and defensive
responsibility at this tournament, so it looked like an interesting match.
The Russian players captured the lead very soon in the game as they made use of the first
two-man advantage. Ivan Amakhin corralled the puck at the blue line and passed it to Alexander
Plyuschev, who has beaten Jakub Lev blocker side high with his wrist shot. The Czechs had
again to cut the lead of the opponent, just like in the first game against Finland. They
were able to put the Russians in their own zone under pressure from time to time, while
the Russians were threatening with fast counterattacks off the wings. After the next five
minutes the Russians controlled the game and the Czechs were in hard defense, often just
coughing the pucks up from their own zone. Denis Parshin had a huge scoring chance, but
couldn’t lift the puck over Jakub Lev after he deked the defenseman on his breakaway.
Two consecutive Czech powerplays helped them to move out of the Russian pressure and
eventually score the tying goal.Karel Hromas was the lucky one, Lubomir Stach unleashed a
hard slap shot from the blue line and Hromas rebounded it behind Ivan Kasutin’s back.
At the beginning of the second period Ivan Kasutin was replaced in the Russian net by Denis
Grushetsky, but it didn’t influence the game too much. After powerplays on both sides the
young Russians grabbed the lead again. Enver Linsin won the puck at half-boards and passed
it across the Czech zone to Roman Voloshenko. Voloshenko then made a fast turn between the
faceoff circles and his wrister went through a screen into the Czech net.
The stubborn Czechs played with lots of heart and spirit and managed to tie the game again,
just two minutes later. After Jan Svrcek’s shot there was a huge mess in front of Kasutin
and Marek Curilla was the first one to find the puck and chip it into the Russian net.
The game was a nice one to watch, the Russians used their speed to slip through the Czech
defense while the Czechs showed some nice passing plays finished by hard shots at the net.
The Russian goalie didn’t make sure saves all the time and once on a chance, the Czechs
tried to fire the puck instead of making nifty dekes.
However, they gave up two goals during one minute. At 15:49 of the second Roman Voloshenko
scored again. Alexander Plyuschev passed the puck across the crease and Voloshenko was standing
at the right place at the right time. He fired the puck into the almost empty net and the
Russians were in lead again. The second goal then came after a Czech mistake in the neutral
zone. Evgeny Malkin made use of a bad Czech outlet pass and went with Dmitri Shitikov
on a breakaway. Michal Gulasi was the only Czech player in the zone, but he couldn’t do
anything against Malkin’s pass. Shitikov then immediately fired the puck behind Jakub Lev’s
back. The Czechs were trailing by two and the situation looked to be quite desperate.
But they did the best thing what they could – scored a goal before the period was over. Petr
Chaloupka avoided a Russian clearing pass and found Zdenek Bahensky at the left faceoff circle.
Bahensky coralled the puck with one hand, shuffled the puck and has beaten Kasutin glove side
to cut the margin.
Czech goalie Jakub Lev made a highlight glove save at the beginning of the third period.
Evgeni Malkin went in on alone, but Lev has robbed him with his fast glove. The Czechs did
everything they could and tried hard to tie the game. At 4:38 they succeeded. After Zdenek
Bahensky’s pass Jan Dusatko showed a great individual play in the Russian zone. He skated
across the zone with the puck on his stick, fooled two Russians and finally fired the puck
over Kasutin’s right shoulder.
For the whole rest of the third period the Czechs pressed a lot, a win would move them up
to the second place in the tournament, over the Russians. The pace of the game was very
high and it didn’t look like a game of only 16-year olds. The Russian defense remained very
good and they didn’t allow any more goal. So the result turned out to be a 4:4 tie. The Czechs
did a great job in tying the game three times, but couldn’t score the winning goal…

Coach Vlastimil Koci’s comment: This game showed that our players can compete well against
every opponent. We missed just more luck to score the winning goal, but we could cope with
the Russian speed well and all the players played a very good game.

Top players at their positions

Goaltender: Alexis Ahlqvist (Finland)
Defenseman: Jaroslav Mrazek (Czech Republic)
Forward: Evgeny Malkin (Russia)

Four Nations tournament standings

1. Finland
2. Russia
3. Czech Republic
4. Sweden

Coach Vlastimil Koci’s comment: This tournament was a great confrontation between the top
European Under-16 teams. We learned a lot from this experience. The only thing to worry
about is the loss against Finland in the opening game. The players needed to get used
to the faster international play sooner, after that game their performance was very good.
We all are looking forward to the next game against the Finns and I hope we will be able to
win this time!