Pardubice won Czech Junior Extraleague

By Robert Neuhauser
The Czech junior Extraleague finally came to the championship battle. Every team, who wants
to compete for the title, muss pass a long way. First there is the regular season, which
consists of the usual 38 games. The teams are divided into two groups, Group A for the teams from the
western cities of the Czech Republic and Group B for the eastern cities’ teams.
Each Group consists of 10 teams. During the regular season the teams meet only opponents from
their own group. The comes the Final group. To this group advance the top 6 teams from every
Group. In the Final group the teams from group A play only the teams from Group B and every
team meets his opponent twice – home and away. Also the Final group is divided into two parts.
After that the top four teams from every Final group create four quarterfinal pairs and then
it is a regular playoff, the games are best of three.

This year the juniors of HC Pojistovna Pardubice fought their way into the finals, where they
had to face the juniors from HC Ceske Budejovice. Pardubice won the junior Extraleague the
last season and now they were hoping on a back-to-back season after they defeated HC Sparta
Praha in the semifinals.
Their lineup was stocked
with quality prospects and most of them already had experience from the last year’s run.
Overager Josef Vitek, flashy Petr Koukal
and scorer Petr Prucha, who performed for the Czech Republic at the
2002 WJC, joined the team again after seeing playing time in the Div I league. To other
core players can be counted two-way forward Miloslav Komarek or talented offensive winger
Stanislav Horak.
The team was using the help of all rookies well and
Pardubice have really a bright future. 1984 born forwards Jan Kubista and Jan Velich both
perform regularly for the Under-18 team and are quite likely to be drafted in June. 1985 born
hulking underage defenseman Martin Lojek is a 6’4” behemoth who will probably be among the
first CHL Import picks this year as he is planning to come over. Pardubice created a great
mix of players with three or four years of experience with top junior hockey and young rookies
with great skill and NHL upside.

Even then, Ceske Budejovice team was said to be more talented.
Budejovice had to deal with Litvinov juniors in the semifinal series and they swept them
6:1 and 5:1.
They only lost Buffalo Sabres draftee Michal Vondrka due to a broken thumb, but else they had
all their stars complete. Buffalo’s first-rounder Jiri Novotny was permitted to leave the
Czech pre-WHC camp and rejoin the Budejovice juniors, just like 2003 NHL Entry Draft’s
potential top 3 pick Milan Michalek postponed his arrival to the Czech Under-18 team’s pre-WJC
camp. Captain Jiri Lala, a son of former Czech senior national team forward is along with
offensively gifted winger Jan Rehor also among players who were considered as potential
draft picks last year, but was overlooked. Both of them saw playing time in the senior
Extraleague, where Novotny and Michalek were among the best junior-aged players.
Ceske Budejovice have a very strong both 1982
and 1983 birthyear and both the teams claimed Midget Extraleague championship titles in
1999 and 2000. From the 1984 born rookies big, skilled defenseman Michal Barinka showed the
biggest upside and the series looked to be a tight battle.

But in the first contest, played in Pardubice, the Ceske Budejovice juniors looked a bit
out of place. Pardubice were in control of the game since the first minute. It took them
only 24 seconds to score the first goal. Jan Kubista carried the puck into the offensive zone,
splitted the defense and fired a shot at Josef Kucera in the net of Budejovice. Kucera allowed a
rebound, which was picked by Petr Prucha – 1:0.
This goal brought confidence on the sticks of Pardubice players, who kept the Budejovice
juniors far from their own net. The second Pardubice goal came in the second period. Stanislav
Horak was racing with the puck off the left wing into the Budejovice zone, sized Martin Lojek
kept the backchecking Budejovice defenseman off him so that Horak could fire his wrister over
Kucera’s glove to increase the lead. After Josef Vitek scored a marker of his own from the slot
right under the crossbar to set the score at 3:0, the situation was looking desperate for
Ceske Budejovice. Budejovice could be satisfied with at least one fact, Pardubice were awarded
a penalty shot, but Petr Prucha missed his attempt to score.
Still, Prucha was the man who
decided about this game. Late in the third period he won the puck in the corner even if
he was attacked by two Budejovice players, fired a wrist shot and then rebounded it into the
almost empty net. The score was now 4:0 and there was no sign of a turnover. Alexander Hylak
in the net for Pardubice played a very solid game and earned the shutout, even if he was hit
by Lukas Martinek’s slapper into his head with five minutes to go in the game. After the shot
Hylak appeared to be injured, but then stood between the pipes until the final buzzer.

The second game of the series had to be played in the Ceske Budejovice’s training facility,
which limited the crowd to about 150 people. Ceske Budejovice had to win and they had to do
so without their fans. They played better than in the previous contest, but still didn’t
manage not to give up the first goal again. In the 15th minute Stanislav Horak rebounded
the loose puck into Josef Kucera’s net to give Pardubice the lead. But this time Ceske Budejovice
turned the game over. First top prospect Milan Michalek has beaten Hylak with his wrister
off the perimeter and in the next minute Stepan Hrebejk has set the score to 2:1. The goal came after
Hrebejk went with the puck behind Hylak’s net and then found a place near the left goalpost
where he could pop the puck in.
Pardubice were in a tough situation, but they could handle it. Before the period was over
Stanislav Horak tied the game again and three minutes later Petr Prucha finished the Pardubice
turnover. He received a pass, corraled the puck and fired a wrist shot from between the
faceoff circles which surprised Kucera. The last Ceske Budejovice attempt to do something
with the result came as they pulled the goalie. But unfortunately, they gave up one more
goal. Petr Prucha scored the empty netter and proved that his great scoring touch ruled
the series. The smallish sniper scored 4 goals in the two final games to lead Pardubice to
the back-to-back championship title. Overager Josef Vitek then scored four points for four
assists in the last final game.
The whole team has been awarded with a trip to Croatia
to rest in a seaside resort, but then they’ll have to start preparing for the new season.
They will have a tough task next year. Build a dynasty in Pardubice!

Top playoff scorers Pardubice

GamesGoals Assists Points
1. Petr Koukal55813
2. Josef Vitek64913
3. Petr Prucha3628
4. Stanislav Horak6437
5. Miloslav Komarek6257
6. Jakub Barton6235
7. Jakub Straus6044
8. Ondrej Potucek5202
9. Jan Kubista6022

Top playoff scorers Ceske Budejovice

1. Milan Kostourek 7549
2. Milan Michalek 7549
3. Jiri Novotny 7448
4. Michal Barinka 7347
5. Lukas Chaloupka 7257
6. Tomas Kveton 7426
7. Stepan Hrebejk4246
8. Jan Zakovsky7156
9. Vojtech Mrkvicka7235